Their comments follow two area accidents, one in which a rider was killed and another in which the rider was critically injured, over a 10-day period.
Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore and Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said they would back stricter laws that at the very least would require riders to wear helmets to increase their chances of survival.
“It amazes me we’ve had as few fatalities as we’ve had with these scooters and mo-peds,” Smith said. “I hate to say it, but it comes down to common sense. There’s no law to enforce people to use common sense.”
Maryland law does not require mo-ped or motor-scooter riders to wear helmets or carry insurance.
Wearing helmets could minimize injuries, Mullendore said, noting that motorized vehicles such as scooters are “designed to go up to 40 mph. That’s a pretty significant speed to have no significant protection whatsoever.”
A motor-scooter operator died a day after a May 6 accident at the intersection of Locust and Washington streets in Hagerstown. On May 11, a man was critically injured when his motor scooter collided with a minivan on U.S. 11. Authorities said neither man was wearing a helmet.
A bill requiring the riders of mo-peds and motor scooters to wear helmets was approved by Maryland’s Senate during the General Assembly session that ended in April, but failed in the House of Delegates.
In addition to making helmets mandatory, the Senate bill would have required mo-ped and motor-scooter riders to obtain titles, registrations and insurance for their vehicles.
Currently, “there’s no insurance requirement,” said Mullendore, which means “other vehicle (drivers) that get hit have to pay the cost.”
Mullendore said an insurance requirement would protect motorists who currently have to pay for their own vehicle repairs if their vehicle is involved in an accident with an uninsured mo-ped or motor scooter.
State Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, voted in favor of the Senate bill this year.
He said the recent accidents in Washington County offer proof that the law needs to be changed — not only to protect riders, but to make them follow the same guidelines as motorists by making mo-ped and motor-scooter operators obtain title, registration and insurance.
“These are not bicycles; they are motorized vehicles that can go up to 40 miles per hour,” Shank said. “It is not fair to other motorists who have to recoup the cost of an accident only by suing the rider .... They should be held to the same standards as car and motorcycle operators.”
Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said he believes that minors, at least, should be required to wear helmets, and all riders should carry insurance.
“I think they should have some type of liability insurance,” Myers said.
Myers said he has talked to local dealers of mo-peds and motor scooters to educate himself on the issue.
Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, said he believes the law is inconsistent because it requires minors to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, while the riders of mo-peds and motor scooters don’t have to wear head protection.
He said he would support making minors wear helmets when they operate mo-peds or motor scooters, but requiring the same for adults would require more research. Serafini said he would back an insurance requirement.