Towns: No vrroom for scooters
By Casey Ross
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Communities statewide are cracking down on motorized scooters that have become a noisy nuissance to neighbors and a safety threat to young drivers who use them to whip through traffic at high speeds.
``It's like the mini-Hell's Angels have visited our neighborhoods,'' said William Manzi, City Council president in Methuen, the latest community to consider banning scooters. ``I've personally seen some pretty bad driving and weaving in and out of live traffic.''
Despite the safety threat they pose, Massachusetts does not have a law regulating motorized scooters, which can be driven by children of all ages. The state's Registry of Motor Vehicles proposed a bill to restrict their use in 2002, but the legislation has languished in committee.
Meanwhile, manufacturers are churning out increasingly sophisticated scooters that are made to look like Harley Davidson choppers and other popular motorcycles. Many are sold online for $300 to $800 each.
Police said some of the newer models pose a particular danger because they rise only 2 feet off the ground and are difficult to see in traffic.
``They can go 30 miles per hour and kids are driving them down sidewalks,'' said Peabody police Sgt. Bill Cook, whose community banned motorized scooters last year. ``If someone doesn't see them, you can end up with a fatality.''
Because scooters are not regulated, there are no reliable statistics on the number of accidents. But police say they have seen plenty of injuries involving scooter collisions.
Among the communities to institute bans or other restrictions are Lawrence, Haverhill, Peabody, Beverly, Salem and Arlington. Methuen city councilors are expected to vote on a ban within the next few weeks.
Dan Donahue, a Methuen parent, is among a few voices speaking against the proposed ban. He said two of his sons ride scooters and are careful not to cause problems in their neighborhood.
``If kids are misbehaving on bikes, what are you going to do? Ban those, too?'' Donahue said. ``They're my sons and I'm responsible for their safety. The government has too much control.''
He said he agrees with banning some of the newer scooters because of how difficult they are to see in traffic, but his sons drive more common models that consist of a skateboard, handlebars and 1.5 horsepower engine.
``Give kids a break,'' Donahue said. ``Let them play.''