SDC Buggy crashes prompt Sweepstakes investigation
Without safety precautions, Buggy has the potential to be a dangerous sport. As drivers race down hills and around turns, they need to have as wide a field of view as possible to guarantee they are turning at the right time while maintaining their own safety. That’s the purpose of the many safety rules outlined in the Buggy Bylaws. But what happens when these measures are violated?
While Buggy may have started out with less regulations (one year featured a bathtub on wheels and another a beer keg on wheels), it’s important to realize how many safety checks have been implemented. Section six of the Buggy Bylaws outlines all of the construction and performance requirements that Buggies must follow. Buggies must pass a series of inspections and capability tests in order to roll, so it’s unusual for repeat incidents to occur.
On March 21, the Buggy Alumni Association (BAA) released a statement regarding “a concerning number of incidents with new [SDC Buggy] drivers.” The document outlined two main concerns with Student Dormitory Council (SDC) Buggy. The first concern is that SDC’s driver training program “has been insufficient this year.” Following the incidents, SDC and Sweepstakes (the organization that runs Buggy) met. But due to “insufficient resolution management,” no improvements occurred in the spring, while incidents continued.
The second concern was linked to the Field of Vision test that all buggies must undergo. This test is outlined in the Buggy Rulebook as follows: “Each buggy shall pass a field of vision test, at least once each school semester, with each person who will be driving it, before that person will be permitted to drive that buggy in any type of practice session at Carnegie Mellon University during that semester. The purpose of the field of vision test is to ensure that each buggy provides a minimum field of vision to each person who will be driving it … The driver to be tested shall be placed inside the buggy with all of the driver’s personal protection equipment in place as it would be if the driver were going to drive the buggy.”
On Feb. 11, an SDC buggy crashed at practice rolls. This prompted Sweepstakes to investigate SDC's driver training practices. Another crash on the weekend of Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 prompted Sweepstakes to ban SDC from practice rolls the following weekend. SDC appealed this decision, but Sweepstakes upheld the ban. Between and after these crashes, there was a series of communications between Sweepstakes and SDC to try and resolve any issues.
According to both the BAA statement and documents obtained by The Tartan, the SDC buggy drivers pulled themselves forward into positions that they would not normally be driving in. As outlined above, during the field of vision test, drivers should be in place as if they were going to drive the buggy. As such, there are concerns that driver/buggy combinations were passing the capability tests using conditions that were not representative of the actual driving positions.
This is more explicitly outlined in conversations between Sweepstakes and drivers. In one conversation, a driver described having to pull forward “as far as the harness would let me” while a former driver described being told “to move up a bit so you can see better” and “it was kinda hard to see to the" side.
As a result of their investigation, Sweepstakes initially recommended to SLICE that SDC Buggy should be disqualified for Raceday 2023 (RD23), along with probation next year. SDC would also have goals to help address their problem points. This decision was reached as a disqualification would communicate the severity of the punishment while also communicating that some form of change needs to occur.
While this was Sweepstakes’ initial recommendation, the BAA statement from March 23 outlined a penalty that was modified. In accordance with section 7.1.1 of the Buggy Rulebook, Sweepstakes and the University decided to put all SDC buggies and drivers through another set of capability tests. Additionally, the rules for the Field of Vision test may be revised and reinforced for future Buggy teams. Other penalties were outlined in the statement, but The Tartan understands that these penalties have since been adjusted.
On March 26, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of SLICE Liz Vaughn confirmed with the Tartan that SDC will not be participating until further notice. She also noted, “The safety and well-being of our students is always a top priority for the university community. Following concerns regarding one program’s recent record of participation, Student Affairs leadership is working in partnership with Sweepstakes leadership to ensure that the rigorous safety standards that are shared by Sweepstakes and the university are upheld.”
The Tartan understands that at the time of publication, some of the information in this article may be out of date; that is the nature of news. We plan on issuing another story regarding SDC Buggy and Sweepstakes in the coming week. If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this article, please reach out to email@example.com.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 3/27 to reflect that Buggy didn't start out as shopping carts; that was the writer's misconception. An update has been made to better reflect the history of Buggy. A correct will be in the 4/3 issue of The Tartan.