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FORENSIC CLUES # 40- "Bad Boy Buggies " by John L. Ryan

FORENSIC CLUES

A newsletter dedicated to keeping attorneys informed of the technical side of product liability cases.

Issue 40: Vol. 1 November/December 2010

"Bad Boy Buggies "

By John L. Ryan

CPSC Recall

On October 21, 2009, the CPSC announced a voluntary recall of Bad Boy Classic Buggies. These models with serial numbers between 85004828 and 95010404 are being recalled due to reports of unexpected, sudden acceleration. These units were sold between 2007 and 2009. The CPSC recall notes of injuries sustained due to this defect. The CPSC recall can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov. An article from October 24, 2009 in the Natchez Democrat http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/news/2009/oct/24/bad-boy-recalls-3900-buggies/ covers the recall and states that Bad Boy knew of the problem in 2008 but were not able to identify the cause of the problem. The acceleration was originally attributed to moisture in the accelerator panel. The current fix for the recall involves adding a zener diode to the accelerator circuit, and then reprogramming the computer controller unit onboard the Bad Boy units by hooking a laptop computer to the unit. These recall modifications are performed by authorized Bad Boy dealers. The zener diode prevents voltage spikes from causing acceleration.

Other Control Problems

Bad Boy Buggies subject to this recall have an automatic shut-off system that powers the vehicle down after approximately ten seconds. The actual length of this time frame varies, and the solenoid that is designed to prevent the vehicle from powering up after the ten seconds can malfunction, resulting in the vehicle being able to be moved after the prescribed time frames. The shut-off circuit prevents children or animals from activating the accelerator of the unit. In order to reset the circuit, the drive selector must be switched to neutral, and then back to forward or reverse. Riders may leave the key in the unit since it is an electric vehicle and there may not be the same automatic response of turning the ignition off that occurs in gasoline powered engines. Unfortunately this creates a hazard since when the unit powers down it can only be steered passively, and the power to the wheels are locked out. This can cause accidents if the vehicle is on a slope and begins to roll after the shut-off circuit engages. The internal friction of the electric wheel motors may not be adequate to prevent the vehicle from moving on even gentle slopes. This can result in an accident.

 

Problems in Rollovers

Bad Boy Buggies suffer from the same design flaw as the now infamous Yamaha Rhino. The Yamaha Rhino has received media attention due to numerous deaths of the driver or passenger, as well as many injuries. The high center of gravity of the Yamaha Rhino makes it susceptible to overturning at low speeds. Yamaha’s solution to the problem of overturning Rhinos is adding spacers to the axles to increase the width of the vehicle, making it more stable, as well as the removal of a rear anti-sway bar. The narrow width of the vehicle and the high center of gravity make it easily overturned. The Bad Boy Buggy has a center of gravity similar to the Rhino, although it is somewhat lower than the Rhino. The width of the Bad Boy is less than the Rhino. These variables result in the Bad Boy overturning approximately 1/2 of a mile per hour faster than the Rhino. The Bad Boy can easily overturn.

The center of gravity of the vehicle changes with the addition of passengers, supplies, gear, and other equipment. Many Bad Boy Buggies come with a roof rack on top of the vehicle. This will encourage users to utilize this space and load it up with gear. This will only act to increase the height of the center of gravity and lower the speed at which the unit will overturn.

Once a vehicle of this type overturns, the operator must be kept within the protection of the roll over protective structure (ROPS) in order to be kept safe. What the Bad Boy doesn’t have that the Rhino does have is seat belts. This glaring omission has resulted in fatalities when the driver or passenger falls from the vehicle in an overturn and is crushed by the vehicle. Driver and passenger limbs also become crushed between the vehicle and the ground in an overturn since there is nothing to contain the arms and legs. Yamaha has offered add-on doors to owners of the Rhino, which help keep the occupants’ legs inside of the vehicle. There is no option for doors for the Bad Boy. The lack of doors and seat belts makes the potential for overturns in the Bad boy to result in serious injury or fatality.

Other Issues

So far we have not heard of any failing of the roof support structure of the Bad Boy. When the structure is examined closely, however, it becomes evident that it may not be a full-strength ROPS but more of a canopy. Notice the small size of the structure supporting the canopy of the Bad Boy:

The Yamaha Rhino has a much more substantial and reinforced ROPS:

Many overturns result in a UTV tipping to the side, while some involve full rotation to an upside down position. Rollovers involving full rotating will put much more stress on the ROPS. An improperly designed canopy support structure could fail in an overturn and crush the occupants.

We predict that there will be many more accidents and fatalities on certain Bad Boy units. Now is the time for Bad Boy to be proactive, and add necessary safety features and make essential design changes to keep their customers safe.

Give us a call at (479) 549-4860 if you have any questions about the Bad Boy, or other utility vehicles. We are currently working on multiple accident cases and have the knowledge and experience to scientifically demonstrate the design flaws of these vehicles.

Please call us to discuss any questions you have about unsafe products. (479) 549-4860

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