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Akop Akopyan, Driver of Scottsdale Golf-Cart Shuttle in Crash, has Bad Driving History

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The golf-cart driver involved in a downtown-Scottsdale crash on Sunday that broke a passenger's neck has been cited for at least seven other driving infractions since 2006.

Police say Akop Akopyan, 34, was operating a for-profit, downtown-Scottsdale shuttle service with his golf cart when the accident occurred just after 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

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With two passengers in back, Akopyan was going south on 75th Street toward Stetson when the cart passed over a slight depression in the road, blew its front axle, and rolled. The driver and passengers were thrown from the cart. Police don't believe any of them were wearing seat belts.

Akopyan broke his ankle and passenger Paul Archer received minor injuries. Natalie De Pace of Gilbert, 29, broke her neck and lost several teeth, police say. All three were treated at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn.

Sergeant Mark Clark, Scottsdale police spokesman, says De Pace's injuries weren't considered to be life-threatening.

Akopyan is one of several entrepreneurs who operate the golf-cart shuttle service for bar patrons, charging nothing but making money on tips, Clark says.

While the golf carts must adhere to normal rules of the road, they don't have to obtain licenses required for taxicabs in what is "a bit of a gray area," he says.

But the less-regulated environment means potential passengers of golf carts or pedicabs in downtown Scottsdale take more of a risk.

"Basically, they have to watch out for their own safety," Clark says of pedicab and golf-cart shuttle passengers. "They have to make sure that what they're getting into is safe. Actual cabs are more regulated."

The crash comes a year after a drunk driver slammed into the back of a pedicab on Scottsdale Road, injuring two 22-year-old passengers severely. Scottsdale added a few rules for pedicab operators after that, but Clark says pedicab and golf-cart drivers continue to "swarm" the downtown area in search of customers.

If Scottsdale partiers knew of Akopyan's driving record, they might be less likely to get in his cart.

Akopyan, who lives in Phoenix, has been convicted in six of seven traffic violations for which he's been cited since 2006, court records show.

Some of the infractions are minor: There are two for "improper position for right-hand turn." But there were also citations for excessive speed, speed too great to avoid a collision and driving on a suspended license. He was also cited for running a red light in early June; the case is still pending.

It's unclear whether Akopyan's driving or maintenance of his vehicle had anything to do with the crash. Police have issued no citations in the incident as of yet.

Bill Crawford, a candidate for Scottsdale City Council, posted pictures of the aftermath of the crash on his Facebook site, Scottsdale Bar District News. Crawford also urges potential customers to be cautious.

"They should be licensed," Crawford says of the pedicab and golf-cart drivers. "You see golf carts now over-loaded with kids."

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Ray Stern on Twitter at @RayStern.

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