Vehicles not street legal, police say

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 2, 2004

Brookhaven police are concerned about motorized scooters beingused by children on city streets.

“That’s the biggest concern we have right now,” said BrookhavenPolice Chief Pap Henderson. “It is illegal for them to ride thoseon city streets because they can be dangerous when not riddencorrectly.”

Henderson said the motorized scooters began appearing on citystreets in large numbers after Christmas. Motorized scootersreplaced go-carts this year as they zoomed off retail shelves.

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The chief stressed that he didn’t want to tell parents theirchildren couldn’t ride the scooters, but he did want to remind themthat they couldn’t ride them on city streets. He suggested parentstake their children to the city’s parks and allow them to ridethere.

“We’re asking parents to please work with us and keep these kidsoff the city streets,” he said.

Although Mississippi law does not directly address suchscooters, Department of Public Safety officials say they are not”street legal” because they don’t fit the definition of amotorized vehicle – which are the only ones allowed on roads,streets and highways.

A city ordinance, however, does directly address scooters,Henderson said. Scooters were banned from city streets by the boardof aldermen because they pose a danger to young riders and topassing motorists.

“The scooters were not designed for children to use on citystreets,” he said. “They were designed for private use. Thosethings can move and can cause serious injury to a child who has anaccident on asphalt. We are also concerned about children pullingout in front of motorists.”

Henderson said officers have already witnessed severalpotentially dangerous accidents involving scooters.

In one, a young rider was making a turn with the kickstand down.The kickstand caught on the asphalt and flipped the scooter.

“It tore the scooter in half,” he said. “Thankfully, the childwasn’t seriously hurt and the officer took her home to herparents.”

In others, young riders pulled out in front of passing vehicles,which managed to narrowly miss them.

“They’re not licensed drivers. They’re children,” Hendersonsaid. “They don’t know the rules of the road. They just want tohave fun.”

Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department ofPublic Safety, agreed in an interview with the AssociatedPress.

“They’re not for use on public roadways,” he said. “They aredangerous, because a young child – or anyone for that matter -could lose control and fall in front of a car very easily. They arenot familiar with the operation of a motorized vehicle.”

Motorized scooters come in many forms, but the most commoninclude a standing version that is barely more than a skateboardwith an electric motor and handlebars and a sitting version thatresembles a miniaturized moped.

Top speeds on the scooters average around 12-15 mph. They sellfrom $99 to $1,200.

“These scooters are designed as recreational vehicles for areasaway from regular traffic,” Strain said. ”These scooters shouldbe treated the same as a 4-wheeler or go-cart.”

In Mississippi, Strain said scooters don’t meet the definitionof a legal vehicle. Strain said safety equipment left off of thekiddie scooters include turn signals, horns and rear viewmirrors.

Brookhaven is not alone in adopting ordinances addressing thescooter issue.

Around the country, according to the AP, many cities haveadopted rules limiting where the scooters can be ridden. Andwhether they are allowed on sidewalks, in parks or in other publicareas is being debated and handled differently from one communityto the next.

For example, in Minnesota, some towns prohibit them from notonly streets, but also sidewalks. In Oregon, scooter riders must beat least 16 years old.