OCEAN CITY — The City
Council took exception when it was noticed that some scooter rental companies
were not following the town’s new helmet law, and officials called out for a swift
change without ever making a real threat.
Not yet, at least.
On Monday, the council
was quick to point out that helmet-less scooter rental riders were not just
living dangerously, they were also breaking the town’s helmet law, which is
less than a year old. Additionally, if companies were found to be willingly not
providing the helmets to the riders, they were in violation as well.
“It’s probably one of
those opening day problems that we are facing this summer,” said Councilman
Doug Cymek. “I think there’s possibly been some confusion with the businesses
that they aren’t just supposed to offer the helmets. They are supposed to
require the riders to wear them.”
Although it is pretty
simple to tell the difference between a rental scooter and one that belongs to
the rider (ie, the large “Rent Me” license plate on the back), all seven
members of the Ocean City Council said that they’ve noticed an increasing
number of riders of rental scooters without their helmets on.
“We’ve all noticed it,
and we have to get those helmets on the people on those scooters as it is our
law,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic.
Last summer, the council
passed a law that requires all rental scooter riders to be supplied with a
helmet from the rental company, and more importantly, to wear it during their
ride on Ocean City owned streets.
The state of Maryland
had a bill in the General Assembly during last session that would have made it
illegal to ride a scooter on any state road without a helmet on any state-owned
road, including Coastal Highway, but the bill didn’t even make it out of the
Despite the fact that
technically there is no law to require people to wear helmets on Coastal
Highway, there is a law in place that requires riders to wear helmets on Ocean
City-owned roads, such as any of the town’s numbered side streets and north of
15th Street on Baltimore Avenue.
Ocean City Police Chief
Bernadette DiPino said that she has noticed a handful of instances where
scooter rentals are carrying helmet-less riders, and she says that several
citations have already been handed out thus far.
“We know it’s not a
rampant problem yet,” said DiPino, “but, our officers are aware of the law, and
we brief the seasonal officers on a daily basis on the intricacies of town law
such as this particular helmet law. We are taking steps to get everyone into
DiPino also noted that
rental companies are required to supply a helmet to the riders upon issuing the
scooter, and in a few of the cases where citations have been handed out by the
OCPD for helmet-less riders, she says the companies have said the riders have
refused the helmets.
“We’ve sent commanders
to all the rental shops to get everyone on the same page and make sure they are
all giving helmets to the riders before they leave their shops,” said DiPino.
“If we find that they are willingly allowing someone to violate our law, they
could be in violation of the law as well.”
Anonymous calls to local
rental shops this week trying to find if shop owners were informing potential
customers of the town’s helmet law found that all companies in Ocean City were
not only knowledgeable of the law, including the stipulation that all riders
must also wear shoes, but they also informed the anonymous caller that helmets
were required by town law.
One mid-town rental shop
owner went as far as to say, “you will not leave my store without a helmet, and
if you take it off and the cops catch you, you will get up to a $500 fine.”
The fact that the store
owners are complying with the town’s law should make the council feel a bit
better about the situation, but the fact remains that helmet-less riders on
resort streets is something that is extremely concerning to them.
“We passed the law to
give people a chance out there if they are in an accident,” said Cymek. “I just
read about a scooter accident in Delaware, and even though the person had a
helmet on, it still didn’t have a happy ending.”