Scooter, mo-ped riders face lack of respect on road
Matthew Dill has been riding a scooter about four miles to work from his West Ashley home for about 18 months without incident.
Facts and statistics
Specifications: A mo-ped, or scooter, is a cycle with or without pedals and with a motor of up to 50 cubic centimeters and up to 2 horsepower that is not capable of speeds of more than of 30 mph.
Licensing and registration: The vehicles do not require registration.
Drivers must have a valid driver’s license or a valid mo-ped operator’s license.
A person whose driver’s license has been suspended for a period of six months or less is not required to get a mo-ped license during the suspension period. The minimum age is 14.
Also, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend, revoke or cancel a mo-ped operator’s license only for violations committed while operating a mo-ped.
Helmet use is required only for operators under 21.
Crash Statistics: Between 2006 and 2010, the most recent statistics available, there were 1,840 collisions resulting in 2,108 injuries. (The number of injuries includes all persons injured in a collision involving a mo-ped, not just mo-ped drivers/riders.)
Between 2006 and 2010, there were 64 fatal accidents, resulting in 66 deaths. (The number of deaths includes all persons killed in a collision involving a mo-ped, not just mo-ped drivers/riders.)
In 2010 there were 42 injuries and two fatalities in Charleston County; 14 injuries and one fatality in Berkeley County; and eight injuries and no fatalities in Dorchester County.
Sources: S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles; S.C. Department of Public Safety, Office of Highway Safety
Until last week.
“I got cut off and had to dump it,” said Dill, 30. “It left me pretty mad, but I didn’t have time to think about it because I had to get to work.”
The incident left him with “a little road rash” on his body and a broken headlight on his scooter, but it did not strand him because Dill also has a car.
“I just got the scooter for the gas mileage,” he said.
Although scooters can save money on fuel, the vehicles can be dangerous on congested and fast-paced roads.
Gary Stephens, 57, of West Ashley, was killed Tuesday when his scooter collided with a truck at the corner of King and Line streets.
Charleston Scooter Co. manager Mike Schillo said a lot of people buy scooters, or mo-peds, for their gas efficiency, which can be as high as 100 miles per gallon.
“When gas prices went up and what-not, a lot of people liked that idea,” he said. “Especially people who just have a short commute.”
Schillo said he cautions buyers that scooters are not motorcycles.
“I do anything I can do to make these things safe,” he said. “I preach safety and defensive driving to everyone who drives them, and tell them not to drive them where they are not intended to be driven.”
For instance, he said scooters are not a good mode of transportation for anyone who regularly crosses the Ravenel Bridge or where traffic travels 40 or 50 mph or more consistently.
Scooters and mo-peds, which can cost as little as $1,000, top out at speeds of about 30 mph. Drivers are required to have a driver’s license or a mo-ped license to drive them in South Carolina. No license is required for drivers whose licenses have been suspended for DUI for the duration of the suspension. And, like motorcycles, helmets are required only for those under 21.
Schillo said scooters have a reputation of being “liquor cycles,” driven by people who have lost their licenses because of drunken-driving charges, but they have found a more varied group of riders in recent years.
“My clientele is very diverse,” he said. “Some people drive them because they have no other choice, but there are also a lot of young professionals, college students and retired folks. I have sold them to doctors and lawyers. The stigma that used to be associated with them is changing.”
Kirk Rambow, 35, calls himself a “scooterist” who has been riding about 10 years because he enjoys the slower pace.
Before that, he rode a motorcycle.
“I am not a DUI person or anything like that,” he said. “I have a license, but scooters are my mode of choice.”
However, he has found getting around a little more difficult since moving to South Carolina from Maryland in January.
“There used to be nothing I enjoyed more than going for a ride,” he said. “Then I moved here. There is a lot of tailgating and there are too many people on cellphones.”
Maryland prohibits texting and use of handheld cellphones for all drivers.
“I am an enthusiastic ambassador for scooters,” he said. “I would like to organize scooter rallies and things like that, but I am hesitant to want to lead anybody on a ride. There is a general lack of respect here for scooter riders.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.