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EDITORIAL | Laws can have unintended consequences

Legislation written by the Maumelle City Council can have unintended consequences just as that written by any legislative body.

As hard as council members try to craft the perfect ordinance, the unintended consequences can be the hardest to predict. Such appears to be the case with the recently enacted golf cart ordinance that hasn’t even gone into effect as it was enacted less than 30 days ago.

In the lengthy debate that accompanied consideration of the proposed legislation there was discussion that 16-year-olds would use golf carts to cross Maumelle Boulevard, as is already common practice, but no one suggested that a group of 10-year-olds would take a golf cart out for a high speed spin.

That’s what happened Saturday in Maumelle. The ensuing accident totaled an expensive brick mailbox. None of the pre-teen passengers in the vehicle reported any injuries.

Looking at the damage to the bricks, that’s a miracle.

The driver told police he was rolling downhill backwards when he struck the mailbox because his electric motor stooped while climbing a hill. He must have been traveling at a high rate of speed for the mailbox to be demolished.

The parent /owner of the golf cart was issued a citation by police but there’s no indication he had a clue his son would be joy riding on Maumelle streets in the cart.

Likewise, none of the five City Council members who voted for the relaxed golf cart ordinance could have foreseen or expected such an accident. Most have grandchildren of their own.

Some will say that the law actually hasn’t changed yet since it hasn’t gone into effect. But the point we’re trying to make is that the unforeseen circumstances couldn’t have been predicted.

But when you start relaxing laws you are encouraging less responsible behavior.

Scientists have proven that teens, especially male teens, have not fully developed the part of the brain that controls judgment. That lack of judgment often leads to actions an adult wouldn’t consider attempting.

But we’re talking about pre-teens.

Here’s the deal. Members of the Country Club of Arkansas lobbied and pressured council members to support this legislation because they wanted to use golf carts for other than their intended purpose.

Golf carts are made to transport golfers around golf courses where normal traffic is restricted. Normally you wouldn’t find automobiles or even mailboxes out on the fairways.

Club members said they currently use their carts outside the current law by driving them after dark to and from parties. Nothing unusual about that except it is illegal.

But what the members wanted was to expand that non-golf course use of the golf cart as a vehicle. And that’s where we run into problems.

Children, especially pre-teens, see what adults do and imitate those actions. When the current standards were relaxed, it sent a message that encourages children’s misbehavior. They see us driving golf carts around town to attend parties and we set a dangerous example for our children, whether or not alcohol is involved.

Albeit misguided, you can easily see why pre-teens would think if parents can go to a party, have a few drinks and drive the golf cart home - then why can’t they at least take it for a joy ride.

We were lucky this past weekend; no one was injured. But it’s only a matter of time before a golf cart collides with a larger vehicle rather than a brick mailbox. In that situation we doubt that the result will be the same. The golf cart will be the vehicle demolished in a hard hit by an automobile.

Then what happens to the teen or pre-teen driver and passengers? Your guess is as good as ours — but it won’t be pretty or painless.

We can sit around to wait for the horror of an accident involving a cart or we can do the adult thing now.

— Bill Lawson

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