With gas prices remaining high, consumers are trading in their automobiles in favor of gas-sipping scooters and mopeds, particularly in urban areas. Scooter sales were up 17% in 2011, and moped sales have experienced a similar rise. The number one reason first-time buyers cited for their purchase: to save money. Mopeds and scooters average between 40 and 100 miles per gallon, which can save consumers hundreds of dollars a year in gas alone.
However, there is one major drawback: safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that moped and scooter fatalities increased 50% from 2005 to 2009. Scooters and mopeds are dangerous because there is little to no protection for riders in an accident. Accidents at any significant speed often result in fatalities. Furthermore, scooters and mopeds are involved in a lot of accidents because other drivers often have a hard time seeing them on the roadways, particularly at night.
Protect Your Head with a Helmet
There are several precautions you should take when riding your scooter or moped. According to the NHTSA, around 40% of moped or scooter fatalities involved drivers or passengers who were not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision. Helmets approved by the DOT, ANSI, or Snell are the safest choice, as they have hard outer shells with retention systems to protect from head and brain injury in a variety of impacts.
- Always wear a DOT, ANSI, or Snell-approved helmet.
- If your helmet is not equipped with a face shield, wear goggles or glasses with plastic lenses to protect your eyes against insects, wind, dirt, rocks, or other airborne matter.
Moped and scooter safety tips
In addition to wearing a helmet, here are some general moped and scooter safety tips to keep you safe:
- Obey all traffic control devices and use proper hand signals.
- Always ride with the flow of traffic.
- Pay attention to the roadway, which may pose special dangers to you as a motorcycle or scooter driver, such as potholes, expansion joints on bridges, oil slicks in the middle of the lane (especially when rain begins), and crumbling edges of the roadway.
- Pass vehicles with extreme care, especially near intersections - turning vehicles may not see you.
- Be aware of motor vehicle blind spots.
- Maximize your visibility at night - wear reflective clothing and apply reflective tape to your moped or scooter.
- Use extra caution at intersections, parking lot entrances and exits, and driveways.
- Always use your headlight, even during the daytime.
- Be aware that most scooters and mopeds stop quicker than standard vehicles. Make sure there is always enough space between you and the person following you.
- Familiarize yourself with the local laws regarding your vehicle.
- Finally, drive defensively: realize that other drivers are used to looking for larger vehicles and you may be "invisible" to them, so try to anticipate the actions of others on the roadway and assume they do not see you.
These vehicles require extra vigilance and defensive driving skills. If you follow these safety guidelines and practice safe driving generally, however, you may enjoy many years of safe driving of your motorcycle, moped or scooter.