Scooters may look like a kid-toy version of a Harley, but those considering switching to a scooter to save on gas need to remember that they are potentially dangerous motorized vehicles.
Scooters look fun and harmless. Americans are likely to be conditioned by teen movies from the past that often depict scooters as the transportation of choice for young people. But rarely in those movies does anyone wear a helmet or other protective gear.
Scooters have long been more commonplace in European cities than in the United States. Gasoline has been more expensive on the continent for decades, and scooters are custom-made for the narrow, windy streets that are common throughout old Europe.
But go to Paris or Rome, and you will see scooter drivers wearing helmets, gloves and often protective clothing. Scooters may be a fun, economical way to get around, but wiping out on one still can cause serious injury or even death.
With $4-plus-a-gallon gasoline, scooter sales are soaring in the United States. Sales for Vespas, one popular scooter brand, are up nearly 150 percent over June 2007. The primary attraction: 60 to 75 miles to the gallon.
But these vehicles are more than just a glorified moped. The Vespa GTS 250, for example, can reach speeds of 76 mph.
We understand that scooters are designed primarily for short-distance commuting and trips around town. But those contemplating a scooter need to factor in both safety and convenience when doing so. Scooters offer no protection from the rain, and riders will be buffeted by wind and dust even in ideal conditions.
We don't intend to engage in an anti-scooter crusade. But with higher gasoline prices, many drivers are looking for cheap transportation. And the risks rise with any two-wheeled vehicle -- whether it's a bicycle or a motorcycle.
Folks need to weigh all the disadvantages along with the advantages before buying a scooter. And if they do decide to get a scooter, we hope they seek proper training in how to drive one.
Filling up a car with $4-a-gallon gasoline can be painful. But perhaps not as painful as a few weeks in the hospital and months of rehabilitation.
Before buying a motor scooter to save on gas, please take time to weigh the pros and cons.
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