Golf cart rollover brings laws, classifications into question

On behalf of Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C. posted in Vehicle Rollovers on Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A 34-year-old woman from a nearby state is dead after an accident in Ruidoso, New Mexico. The vehicle rollover happened when a 5-year-old child was driving a golf cart in the Alto Lakes Golf and Country Club community earlier this month. The woman was flown to a nearby hospital, but hospital officials said she later died.

New Mexico State Police issued a preliminary report several days after the accident, but few details were available. According to that report, the rollover occurred around 4:30 p.m. The golf cart held the 34-year-old woman and three children. When the rollover finally happened, the woman found herself pinned under the electric vehicle with a 10-month-old child.

The vehicle overturned as the 5-year-old driver approached Fort Stanton Road while on Broadmoor Drive. Traveling on a downhill grade, the driver turned the vehicle too sharply and caused the golf cart to roll. One of the children was picked up by the child's father at the site of the crash. The other two children were taken to Lincoln County Medical Center to receive medical attention.

It's unknown if all the children belonged the woman or not. If not, her estate could be sued for allowing the child to dangerously drive the golf cart.

A major legal issue is being questioned because of this crash. New Mexico's laws regarding the operation of golf carts on streets are questionable. According to some, the state motor vehicle code is not allowed to prevent local authorities from regulating the use of such vehicles, as long as resolutions made by those local authorities do not allow such vehicles on state highways.

The debate really kicks up when people argue over the classification of a golf cart. Is it a motorized vehicle or a neighborhood electric car? If it is the former, then it must be insured, licensed and registered. If it is the latter, the driver must possess a valid driver's license.

Source: Las Cruces Sun-News, "5-year-old driving golf cart near Ruidoso flips, Lubbock woman dead," Jim Kalvelage, Sept. 18, 2012