Cape Girardeau's scooter riders came one step closer Monday night, although it was a small one, to having to wear helmets while riding on city streets.
The Cape Girardeau City Council, while it still has questions and says the issue deserves more study, asked for a draft ordinance that would lay out exactly what such a law could look like. During its pre-meeting study session, city leaders heard from Southeast Missouri State University officials, scooter owners and others -- some in favor and some opposed.
University president Dr. Ken Dobbins was at the study session, and he noted that he was concerned about scooters long before one of their student-athletes, Meg Herndon, died from a scooter accident last month and he hoped the city would adopt a helmet requirement -- and perhaps others -- to help prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Doug Richards, director of the university police, said that the university has seen a surge in students who are registering scooters. They saw the number swell from 51 in 2010, to 189 in 2011 to 352 seven weeks into the current semester. He wouldn't be surprised to see the number grow to greater than 500 in a short time, he said, because students are drawn to a motorized scooter's fuel efficiency and relatively low selling price.
The influx, Richards said, has caused serious problems for the university, prompting them to push parking for scooters toward the fringe areas of campus to keep the most populated areas safer.
The university's lawyer, Al Spradling III, told the council some additional safety requirements could be that only one person can be permitted on a scooter. Passengers drag down a vehicle that already isn't supposed to travel faster than 30 mph. Scooters can also be limited to streets that don't allow rates of speed greater than 30 mph.
"I know we need more than just a helmet law," Spradling said.
Medical professionals told the council that helmet laws have a direct result on severe traumas involving motorcycles and scooters.
Sarina Webb, a Cape Girardeau resident who brought the issue to the council even before Herndon's accident, told the council that helmets are a good safety measure.
"I'm a mother of three, and my daughter will be driving in three weeks," she said.
One 20-year-old university student, Mitch Brenner, told the council that the problem has been overblown. He's ridden a scooter since he came to campus but only had a permit for the past few weeks. That rule was never enforced until now, he said. Such ordinances only make it harder on students, he said.
Other possibilities that could be included in tighter safety measures include eye protection, insurance requirements and licensing. Scooter riders only have to have a valid state driver's license to ride a scooter.
Councilman John Voss said he'd like to see a draft ordinance sooner than the Friday before a vote, saying he'd like more time to study a proposal.
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO