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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Increase in Scooters on City Streets Raises Safety Concerns

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A spike in gas prices, tightening budgets for buying and maintaining motor vehicles and warmer-than-average temperatures during the first four months of 2012 have all contributed to a seeming run on gas-powered and electric scooters in Hampton Roads. Cycle World in Virginia Beach, VA, has doubled its annual order of mopeds, and owner Roy Ford told WVEC ABC13 that motor bikes are moving out the door quickly.

A similar combination of factors led to a sharp increase in scooter and moped sales across the entire United during 2008. Four years since the onset of the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s, the Motorcycle Industry Council recorded an 11.4 percent rise in sales of the two-wheelers during 2011 and forecasts that mopeds and scooters will continue to lead the market this year.

So scooters are a sensible purchase for many residents of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. The decision to get a two-wheeler must be made with an eye equally on the wallet and safety, however. As the following April 7, 2011, news video from WAVY-TV 10 shows, scooter riders face all the risks of injuries and death from traffic accidents as do motorcycle riders.

Driver charged after sriking, killer scooter rider at Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Like motorcyclists, moped and scooter riders are required by Virginia law to wear helmets and obey all traffic laws that apply to car, truck, SUV and van drivers. Additional restrictions are that no one can take mopeds or scooters onto streets or highways with posted speed limits higher than 35 mph and that no one younger than 16 years of age can operate a motor bike on a public street.

DMV rules do not require a driver's or motorcycle license for mopeds and scooters, but riders must carry personal identification.

Beyond those legalities, the real concerns for scooter riders — again like for motorcyclists — are that they have no protection in collisions and can be easy for turning and merging drivers to miss. My Virginia Beach-based personal injury colleagues and I have represented many victims of motorcycle and scooter accidents. Almost to a person, the defendant at-fault drivers have claimed, "I never saw the bike."

That unacceptable excuse contains both a lesson for drivers and a warning for new and long-time scooter owners. First, anyone behind the wheel of a motor vehicle must constantly be on the lookout for two-wheelers. At the same time, scooter and moped riders must exercise extreme caution at all intersections.

EJL

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.