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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Cape council to consider requiring helmets, insurance for scooter riders

Monday, October 1, 2012

The thought didn't first come to Sarina Webb because of what happened to Meg Herndon last month. Neither was it spawned in June, when Zach Boerboom -- a friend's 19-year-old son -- was involved in a crash that didn't take his life but did break his back and steal his dream.

For Webb, the idea that scooter riders should be required to wear helmets originated months earlier as she sat at a busy Cape Girardeau intersection.

As Webb waited for the light to change, she noticed a blond-haired girl riding a scooter. The girl was wearing flip-flops and "short shorts." The one thing she wasn't wearing, Webb noticed, was a helmet.

"Then I just thought out of nowhere how easy it would be to have her life stolen from her by one of those scooters," said Webb, a teacher's assistant in the Cape Girardeau School District.

Webb contacted her Cape Girardeau City Council representative, Mark Lanzotti, and told him what she thought. Now, with Lanzotti's full support, Webb will speak to the council at its 5 p.m. study session today in talks that could culminate in helmet requirements being placed on scooter riders.

She's been on the agenda for weeks and, as she waited, she saw her argument tragically reinforced by what happened to Boerboom, who was hit while riding his scooter as he drove home from Jackson in June. Then, last month, she learned that Herndon, a 21-year-old college student, was killed following a scooter accident that left her with severe brain injuries.

"I can't imagine losing a child," Webb said. "But maybe changing the ordinance will help prevent that from happening."

When Webb stands at the podium tonight, at least one of its members won't have to be sold on the issue. Lanzotti said that he supported the idea immediately and even thinks an insurance requirement should be added.

But he initially wasn't sure the council could legally do it. So he sent an inquiry to city manager Scott Meyer who, after a check with the city attorney, said the council did have the authority.

As Lanzotti understands it now, a Missouri city can make its laws more restrictive than the state, but not less so. Missouri's regulations, like Cape Girardeau's, allows scooters to be operated on public streets and highways if the driver holds a valid driver's license. A scooter is to have a maximum speed of no more than 30 mph. But, unlike with motorcycles, the state does not require a helmet to be worn.

Missouri communities are divided in how they've handled scooters. Springfield, St. Joseph and Rolla don't require helmets. Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City do. Lee's Summit even banned certain types of scooters from its streets altogether.

States regulate scooters in different ways, too. In Maryland, for example, a new law that takes effect today requires moped riders to wear helmets and eye protection and calls on the state's 3,500 motor scooters be titled and insured.

In Cape Girardeau, scooters are popular among college students because they come with low price tags and are fuel-efficient. The university has seen an increasing number of tags, this semester issuing 340. The lure of not having to wear a helmet is surely a big draw, too.

Some, too, argue against wearing helmets, calling it a personal decision and that such laws infringe upon individual rights.

Lanzotti isn't interested in having that argument.

"That debate was had at the state level in regards to motorcycles," Lanzotti said. "Why can't I extrapolate that same result to what is functionally a low-powered motorcycle?"

Lanzotti even believes that scooters have been allowed to operate in a "loophole of the law." The problem has always been there, he said, and if Cape Girardeau leaders can close the hole, they should.

"I don't think my thoughts changed in light of the Meg Herndon tragedy," Lanzotti said. "I was generally comfortable with the notion that in the state of Missouri we're going to require motorcycle riders to wear helmets then we ought to put them on scooter riders."

Zach Boerboom, the son of Webb's friend, didn't used to agree, but he does now. Football is in his family's blood. His father is Brian Boerboom, the offensive line coach at Southeast Missouri State University, who played at the University of Nebraska in his college days. Zach's little brother plays at Central, where Zach had caught 13 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns as a senior.

After a stint at the University of New Mexico, Zach had come home, intending to play for his father this season with the Redhawks. Then, in June, Boerboom was riding his scooter when he was hit from behind and thrown 100 feet onto the pavement.

Two vertebrae in his neck were fractured, and his back was severely injured. He was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital in serious condition.

After eight hours of surgery, Zach was told by doctors he would likely face some level of paralysis. But after months of painful rehabilitation, he is walking. His football days, however, are behind him.

Boerboom doesn't think a helmet would have prevented his injuries, but he knows it could not have hurt. But when he saw three months later what happened to Herndon, he realized he was the lucky one.

"I think a helmet will help prevent brain injuries," he said. "But the thing is that kids won't ride scooters if they have to wear a helmet. Back then, I wouldn't have."

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.


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How about also making them have headlights on? They are to hard to see

-- Posted by cartman89 on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 6:33 AM

The article quotes; "Then I just thought out of nowhere how easy it would be to have her life stolen from her by one of those scooters," said Webb,...

How will a helmet law prevent thievery by scooters? Serious though, which of the examples cited of scooter related injuries or fatalities were the fault of the scooter? I fault the ignorance of the car and truck drivers for these accidents, not the scooters. Driver education and awareness reminders (ads, signs, billboards) will help more than laws will.

Yes, I agree that riders should do more to protect themselves (shorts and flip-flops?) but more important than a new helmet law would be the requirement of a motorcycle safety class permit for scooter operators. Helmets protect the occupant's head but not the body. Will you make a law that the riders must wear padded protective suits also? The young man who was mentioned in the article played football where they are required to wear helmets and pads. Who's to say that he wouldn't have been injured just as severely playing a game or in practice? It happens quite often.

The top priority should be in awareness training and education for all. Beyond that, you cannot legislate common sense. I find fault in the 30 mph speed limit for scooters when they must travel with vehicles multiple times their size, traveling at much higher speeds. Are you going to blame the scooter or the rider for not being able to flow with the traffic as well?

-- Posted by TXtwoStroke on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 6:34 AM

@TXtwostroke Really? You really think padded protective suits preserve lives like helmets? Those suites only protect the rider from road rash, something that will heal. Helmets protect the rider from head injuries. Injuries that could cause death or leave the rider with debilitating brain injuries.

You are right, its not the scooters fault. But the Missouri drivers manual clearly states that drivers must drive defensively. How does this apply to scooters? Wearing protective clothing starting with a helmet and adding what ever you are comfortable with.

Sure training and education for all sounds good but that training and education has been around since vehicles were first driven. And look how many motorcycle and scooter wrecks still happen. No amount of training will make a distracted driver or one who isn't paying attention see a scooter in their path.

I truly believe that helmets save lives, on motorcycle and scooters. It's mandatory for one it should be for the other.

-- Posted by TheOneDude on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 8:21 AM

Man its good to know that the city council representative are here to take care of the scooter drivers. What is wrong with the people who drive those scooters make their own decisions. Are they not capable of doing that. For God sake does somebody else have to make up their mine. one purpose of riding a scooter is to feel free, now they want to take that away

-- Posted by Loophole on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 9:01 AM

"Lee's Summit even banned certain types of scooters from its streets altogether. "

"Boerboom doesn't think a helmet would have prevented his injuries, but he knows it could not have hurt."

Two testimonials to the fact that these scooters are not road-worthy. BAN SCOOTERS ON ROADWAYS INTENDED FOR 2-ton motorized vehicles! They are doing more harm than good; they are forever changing or ending the lives of the victims that have been duped into buying them as well as the drivers who hit them. Helmets are a matter of choice, but oftentimes, the same individuals who choose not to wear helmets are the same individuals who elect no health insurance or have no means to pay for a hospital stay, and their injuries are a financial drain on the hospitals (both the rural hospitals in town as well as the metropolitan hospitals in Memphis in St. Louis where many of of the severely injured are rushed to), that I may need to depend on some day.

-- Posted by Beaker on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 9:14 AM

"Lanzotti said that he...even thinks an insurance requirement should be added."

Why do people keep allowing liberals like Lanzotti to run as Republicans? I could care less about this law, but he should be ashamed to pretend to be something that he clearly is not, just for political gain. We all learned that he was not a Republican back when he tried to control non-city land with the idiotic thought of allowing Cape city council to put ordinances on county land. Nothing about either of these are Republican in nature.

"As Lanzotti understands it now, a Missouri city can make its laws more restrictive than the state, but not less so."

More government regulation. Again, nothing a true Republican would support.

Lanzotti said. "Why can't I extrapolate that same result to what is functionally a low-powered motorcycle?"

Let's follow that logic into riding lawnmowers ---

"Why can't I extrapolate that same result to what is functionally a low-powered scooter"?

Lets make a law that you have to be helmeted on a a riding lawnmower. That's the next step following his absurd logic.

Wear a helmet because you might save your own life due to idiotic drivers, not because the government says that you have to. There was a time when Republicans didn't like the government telling them what all they had to do and how they had to do it. Times sure have changed.

-- Posted by gomer on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 9:24 AM

They definitely need to have insurance and headlights! It's up to the rider if they want to wear a helmet in my opinion unless it's a child on there as a passenger (which is stupid). Too bad people just can't use common sense.

-- Posted by TommyStix on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 9:25 AM

It will only take 3 or 4 thousand scooter rider signatures to kill this ordinance. The only way scooter riders will ever be safe is if you eliminate cars and trucks. Everything is dangerous if you're not carefull.

-- Posted by buyer beware on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 10:15 AM

lets see make people wear safety but it is ok to Hunt

-- Posted by falcon2412 on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 11:00 AM

Falcon, are you "smoking" again? You are on the wrong response board. Hunting is "two-doors down"...

-- Posted by TXtwoStroke on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 11:20 AM

Again, make them use the bike lanes! The cyclists sure don't

-- Posted by wuzthinking on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 11:23 AM

I thinking making them use bike lanes is approaching a compromise but it's clear that neither bike nor scooter have any business on any streets (who wins when a 2 ton car strikes a 25 pound bicycle). Bikes were made for back yards. Scooters just aren't a good idea period.

-- Posted by Beaker on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 12:29 PM

Wait a minute! I think we have this backwards. It is not the scooters that are the problem, it is the morons flying around in their 2-ton vehicles texting, talking on cell phones, putting on makeup and aggressive driving that are the problems. If the police/legal system would prosecute the motorists that are at fault instead of pinning medals on them for taking out the pesky scooter operators, you might actually save lives and injuries.

-- Posted by Cyclista on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 12:35 PM

I think scooters/mopeds/bikes/powered​ wheel chairs/motorbike​s & even ATV are hard to spot especially at crossings or when in heavy traffic as they blend in too easy into the background. They really should pass a law & make them brighter colored (to stick out and not blend into the background so easily) and they should wear a safety helmet for their own protection. Although a safety helmet will not protect them from a big truck but it would hopefully help prevent head injuries. I also think they should have a bright flashing Orange/Yellow LED light sticks (on the back end of their vehicle) sticking up higher would help so people in big trucks can see them better. Wouldn't be a bad idea that they also take a defensive driving course every so many years to help avoid potential issues as most people driving today are in their own little world and don't really think about these issues.

-- Posted by Mr. T on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 12:59 PM

Beaker, bikes are NOT made for backyards. Bikes were on the road long before automobiles were invented and are a legal and legitimate form of transportation on our streets. You are correct that a 2 ton car wins when it strikes a 25 pound bicycle. Therefore, the motorist has a responsibility to use extreme caution around other legal roadway users. Using your logic, a 40 ton semi-truck wins over a 2 ton automobile. Are you then saying that automobiles have no business on the street? The bicycle has a legal right to be on the road in all 50 states, end of story.

-- Posted by Cyclista on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 1:06 PM

As a member of Freedom of Road Riders and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, I can tell you far too many non-riders and riders alike, have come to consider helmets a sort of magic bullet to protect riders. This is a huge mistake and is costing riders everywhere their lives & dreams. Accidents resulting above 35 miles per hour render most helmets useless but any accident resulting in bodily injury makes a helmet completely ludicrous.

The problems associated with uneducated riders & drivers alike, failure to yield and distracted drivers must be addressed before any of us are safe on the street. A huge step in addressing the safety issues of 2 wheel motorized travel will be in pushing our legislation to finally define motorcycles.

We all wish to be safe. Riders are all someone's son, daughter, wife, husband, father or mother. Help raise awareness & educate all those using Missouri's avenues of travel!

-- Posted by Melanie Coy on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 1:19 PM

They are rated to go less than 30 MPH so maybe they should only be on roads rated at that speed or less

-- Posted by liketohunt9 on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 1:26 PM

I love how everyone seems to think that any accident involving a scooter and an automobile, is automatically the automobile driver's fault. There is fault on both ends. I have seen scooter drivers texting while scooting also. Not all fault is with drivers of automobiles... Scooter operators are capable of being distracted and bad drivers as well. Jeez.

-- Posted by ZU on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 1:28 PM

Ironic in the old rural days we got away from may of these safety issues because we did not have much traffic but the times are a changing. Towns grow thus more cars & traffic and distractions. I consider scooters/mopeds/ATV's and all handicap powered vehicles or small motorized vehicles in that nature not road-worthy vehicles. They should not be on any main highways/roadways intended for 2-ton or larger vehicles. That is why they make bike paths/sidewalk trails to accommodate for students and people with small transportation bikes or handicap power vehicles. When I see a scooter on a roadway I cringe as they are asking for trouble. Where I usually see issues is at crosswalks & crossings and driveways because they are small and blend into the background not to mention they often sit lower to the ground with no bright colors or any flashing warning lights. As for wearing a helmet, I don't think wearing a safety helmets is going to matter much to someone who get's hit by a large cement truck. When you live or drive near a university campus/resorts/lakes/parks and beach areas you can expect people/students to use scooters and bikes which makes it more dangerous as they dart out of nowhere. I think people on scooters/etc unfortunately are usually not dressed appropriately (with any body protection) which additionally adds to the hazard and why so many are injured (not always their fault) but the smaller vehicle looses and why they should have their own vehicle liability insurance just like cars and trucks to cover any liability issues. Why should other pay for their liability?

-- Posted by Mr. T on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 1:56 PM

Can we put everything aside and think of the safety of everyone involved. The scooters drivers are victims, but do you really think a person wakes up and says, "I'm going to hit a scooter or a motorcycle today." It is bad for both parties. If motorcyle rides know how important it is for a helmets, than our young people should also. These students (340) are our future and they will understand one day when they have there own family how important life really is, but until than as adults we need to guide them for their own safety. The University has a percent of responseablity to help us keep our children safe when they go to school, but our children have to make adult discussions. Stop thinking of your politics and how we you don't believe in what others do and think of the saftey of our good children that are just trying to make it for fours of bad choices. We have all made bad choices, but if we can help stop a few before it happens lets do it for them.

-- Posted by getoverit on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 3:58 PM

Can we put everything aside and think of the safety of everyone involved. The scooters drivers are victims, but do you really think a person wakes up and says, "I'm going to hit a scooter or a motorcycle today." It is bad for both parties. If motorcyle rides know how important it is for a helmets, than our young people should also. These students (340) are our future and they will understand one day when they have there own family how important life really is, but until than as adults we need to guide them for their own safety. The University has a percent of responseablity to help us keep our children safe when they go to school, but our children have to make adult discussions. Stop thinking of your politics and how we don't believe in what others do and think of the saftey of our good children that are just trying to make it for fours years of bad choices. The bad choices are not so bad that they lose their life over it or take one. We have all made bad choices, but if we can help stop a few before it happens lets do it for them.Is that not what a parent is meant to do.

-- Posted by getoverit on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 4:03 PM

"Why should other pay for their liability? "

Where does the law say you have to pay for someone else's liability just because they don't have insurance? If they don't have insurance and are at fault, take 'em to court -- that's the essential reason we have non-criminal courts in the first place.

-- Posted by gomer on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 5:04 PM

I feel that if vehicles, of any sort are to use the roadways, insurance does need to be a requirement. "scooters" should be required to follow the same regulations as a motorcyclist.

-- Posted by mmize on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 5:49 PM

mmize I agree

-- Posted by getoverit on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 8:46 PM


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