Here in southern Indiana, we have just been through one of the more oppressive winters in recent memory. But now that the snow has melted and temperatures have risen, scooters and bicycles are being taken out of storage and are back on the roads in force. In Evansville, scooter use has exploded in recent years, bringing controversy as well as an increasing number of accidents and injuries in their wake. According to the Evansville Police Department, there were just nine scooter wrecks in Evansville in 2008. A mere four years later, in 2012, they reported 90 accidents involving scooters. As Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was recently quoted as saying: “It’s like someone had taken Miracle-Gro and all of a sudden there are scooters everywhere.”
For the scooter riders everywhere and the drivers who share the road with them, here are a few tips to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries:
- Make Yourself Visible. Perhaps the single biggest safety issue for scooters and mopeds is their size, or lack thereof. Often, drivers simply do not see scooters. Riders should:
- Keep headlight on at all times.
- Wear brightly-colored protective clothing that covers your arms and legs completely. Use reflective tape on your clothing, helmet and vehicle.
- Wear protective boots and gloves.
- Do not ride in another driver’s blind spot. Stay behind and to the right of the vehicle in front of you so you can see the vehicle’s turn signals.
- Brake Carefully and Give Yourself Some Space.
- Remain a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you when coming to a stop.
- Keep at least a two-second traveling distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to allow time to react if the driver ahead suddenly stops. It gives you time to see potholes, slippery spots and debris.
- Flash your brake light to warn others, by squeezing the brake lever before slowing down.
- If you squeeze the brake lever too hard, you may lock the front wheel and tip your moped over, particularly on wet or loose surfaces.
- Apply both brakes at the same time.
- Brake before entering a curve or turn.
- Wear. A. Helmet. If you value your brain, and you should, the single most important thing you can do while riding your scooter or moped is wear a helmet. Having a helmet not only protects your head in the event of a collision, but it also reduces wind noise, minimizes debris in your face and eyes and even helps protect you in extreme temperatures.
- Stay Off the Phone. While there has been a massive campaign to remind the public about the dangers of texting and driving, using your phone while on your scooter can distract you from the attention you need to be paying to the road and other drivers around you. Whether you’re texting (somehow) or just talking, keep your hands on the handlebars and focus on the road.
Indiana is one of the few states that still does not require a driver’s license in order to drive a scooter or moped, though that could soon be changing. But responsible riders (and the vast majority of riders are safe and responsible) know that their rides share the road with cars, trucks, and other drivers. With a little caution and forethought, everybody should be able to share the roads safely.