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Are Scooters Safe?

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One of the first questions I had, when I started down this path of motor scooter fun, was, “Are scooters safe?” I have witnessed a motorcycle accident on a highway firsthand, and the rider was not wearing a helmet. Add in the fact that I am fairly risk-averse, so I went into research mode before I ever sat on a scooter seat. I wasn’t ready to hop on a scooter without diving in to understand what I was getting myself into.

Statistics show that there are many controllable factors to the risk level of scooters. How you drive, the gear you wear, and scooter maintenance considerations greatly decrease your chances of being in an accident and the severity of an accident.

So there are risks on a scooter, but aren’t you at risk on a bicycle, playing football, or swimming in a river? The real opportunity here is to look at what you can do to make this the safest experience you can. It’s just like a car. Wear your seat belt, reduce your injury risk. Use a blinker, reduce your accident risk. That said, if you’ve been on a scooter, you know that free feeling than cruising down the road on a beautiful day gives you. How do you weigh the risks and benefits? With that in mind, let’s take a look at the statistics and ways to reduce your risk.

Scooter Stats to Consider

Scooters are generally not studied independently of motorcycles. They tend to get lumped in together. The definitions of scooters and motorcycles vary to some degree in general, and so do the definitions within the studies. One has any step-through model as being a scooter, and I ran across another that was just based on the engine displacement (cc) size as the line in the sand. Regardless, the risk of being in an accident is similar, if not the same as other vehicles tend to overlook the two-wheel variety of transportation modes in general.

Summary of Findings That You Can Control

The statistics on motorcycle accidents and fatalities is sad, but it really gave me hope. Most of the accident causes have fairly simple solutions that you can incorporate as a rider. Check out some interesting findings along with the potential solutions.

Stat/Finding Solution
60% of the fatalities were riders NOT wearing a helmet. 1 Wear a helmet.
26% of the fatalities were riders with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) over the .08 limit! 1 Don’t drink and drive
Grossly underinflated tires cause loss of control situations 2 Pre-Ride Check includes tire pressure.
Your speed in relation to the surrounding traffic 2 Don’t exceed the posted speed limit, and steer clear of roads your scooter isn’t capable of going an appropriate speed on
The average speed of the accidents in the study was 35 mph 2 Don’t be complacent when you’re cruising along on side streets
Skill Deficiencies, Control Unfamiliarity and Vehicle-Handling Unfamiliarity were all contributing factors to single vehicle accidents BUT not Traffic Knowledge Deficiency 2 Practice makes perfect! Go to a parking log and practice sudden stops, how to avoid objects and dealing with tight spaces
Passengers, especially their impact to your balance, increase your risk 2 I don’t tote passengers, but if you do, teach them how to be a good passenger to help you keep your scoot moving as expected.
Other driver distractions or not fully scanning are big factors in multiple vehicle accidents involving motorcycles 2 Not totally within your control but drive defensively. Assume the cars around you can’t see you.
Most of the motorcycles in the study did not have anything reflective 2 Add a fun or fierce decal or a piece of gear with reflective aspect.
Most of the motorcycles in the study were white, black and silver 2 If you can choose your scooter color, have some fun with it.
Single vehicle and fatalities were observed more often in tight curves 2 Be wary of curves. Take them slow as applying that brake in the curve is simply too late.
13% of riders in the study had drugs or alcohol present 2 Broken record. Just don’t.
25% of crashes reported in the study were attributed to aggressive driving behaviors 2 Be Nice. Enjoy the ride.

Other Interesting Stats to Be Aware Of

Fatalities on a freeway made up only 13%. 1 Those roads around your house aren’t inherently safer because the speed limit is lower as most crashes occur when the limit is below 45 miles per hour 2.

80% of the time, evasive action was not attempted or was performed wrong. 2
Practice those skills to make sure you are effective when you need to use them.

Fatalities were more likely to occur at night, but crashes, in general, were more likely during daylight hours. 2 Adding in extra elements to be seen could be effective here such as reflective gear.

Check out the age range of accidents in the line graph below. The fatalities of the under 30 crowd reduced dramatically and are now relatively stable. However, note the increase in the 50+ rider segment. 1

Next, look at the fatalities since 1985 with the lines representing the different size engines. I found this surprising as I assumed scooters and smaller motors would have an overall less mortality risk. The numbers say otherwise below. There has been a decline, but close to half of all fatalities on a motorcycle or scooter are still in that <1,000 cc category that scooters fall into.

graph representing motorcycle deaths broken into motorcycle engine sizes.

Are Motor Scooters Safe?

Summary of What You Can Do to Be Safe on Your Scoot

Pre-Ride: Check those brakes & tires

Wear: Your safety gear. Above all, your helmet! Preferably full-face and definitely fastened!

Be Seen: Reflective components, bright colors, and lights.

Be Safe: Practice your evasive maneuvers in a low-to-no traffic space. Another area in life where practice makes perfect

Be Smart: Don’t drink or do drugs & then hop on the road

Wrap It Up

Scooters are not inherently dangerous. Most of the risk comes from distraction and mistakes from scooter drivers AND other vehicles which makes solutions attainable. Do your part whether you’re cruising around on your scooter or vehicle.

Sources:
1: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
2: Federal Highway Administration

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