Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Scooter warning has cops defensive

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - There's a big brouhaha over the little motorized scooters zipping around the city. But police said Monday people misunderstand their intentions.

"We aren't doing the 'E-Scooter Patrol,'" said Officer Dave Crawford, Hamilton police spokesman. "It isn't like we're sitting behind a tree, waiting to snag a 7-year-old and impound the vehicle."

The city police department recently tried to inform the public that electric scooters, or "e-scooters," are considered motor vehicles under Ohio law. But the scooters cannot meet standards for licensing, and neither can operators who aren't old enough to drive.

Therefore, it is illegal to operate e-scooters on public roadways. They also cannot legally be used on private property that is generally accessible to the public. "The only place they can be used is private property where access to the general public is restricted," said David McCallister, associate legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

But city police attempts to educate parents and children backfired; about 100 citizens contacted police wondering whether officers don't have anything better to do than bust kids on scooters. Police say they have heard that a number of citizens plan to take their concerns to Wednesday's City Council meeting.

"We've been beaten up over this, wrongfully, I think," said Police Chief Neil Ferdelman. "We just want to make sure kids aren't getting hurt or killed.... We wanted to take an educational approach."

Ferdelman said if a child is badly hurt or killed, enforcement might be stepped up. But right now, he said, "This is not one of our priorities. We have yet to write the very first citation."

Crawford said the "buyer-beware" warning came after a number of officers noticed more e-scooters on city streets.

Frank Caltrider, state registrar of motor vehicles, said safety is a major concern.

"These vehicles that weren't intended for road use are being used on the roads, and that creates a big problem," he said.

Caltrider said he just returned from a meeting of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and "this was one of the topics that we discussed, because it's happening all over."

Parents or grandparents may spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars on the scooters, so they tend to get upset when they find out there are very few places to legally use them, Caltrider said.


E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com

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