OCEAN CITY — The City
Council is considering harsher penalties for violations of the town’s helmet
law for rental scooter riders and passengers, after a huge spike in citations
in the first few days of July.
After more than 57
citations were written for helmet-less riders this past week, including 33 on
July 3 and 4 alone, Councilman Doug Cymek once again pleaded with colleagues to
consider further amendments to the town’s helmet law, which requires helmets on
all town-owned streets.
“It’s only a matter of
time before someone gets seriously hurt or killed on one of these scooters,”
said Cymek. “There have been too many instances of people riding without
helmets to believe that all these companies are passing helmets out to all the
riders as they are supposed to.”
Last month, similar
concerns were raised about a proliferation of youths slaloming through Ocean
City on rental scooters without the required headgear, and a police
investigation seemingly found that all stores were in compliance with the
“We have found that most
of the rental companies are requiring that renters sign a form that says that
they will wear the helmet and shoes for the entirety of their ride,” said Ocean
City Police Department spokesperson Jessica Waters. “So, when citations are
written, the violator is only the rider and not the company.”
Still, many on the
council believe there are a few companies turning a blind eye to the law and
simply ignoring the town’s helmet law, as well as the town’s policy on renting
scooters post dusk.
“I’ve been seeing
scooters at all hours of the night and sometimes on the Route 90 bridge,” said
Council President Joe Mitrecic. “I think that maybe we should consider
impounding these scooters for violations and maybe that will get the rental
owners to get their customers to keep the helmet on.”
On July 3 and 4, the
OCPD handed out 33 citations for riders electing not to wear a helmet on resort
streets, and two additional citations for riders driving without a valid
Violators ranged in age
from 17-41, spread out at locations all over town, although the majority of the
infractions occurred in downtown and mid-town Ocean City.
Another problem that the
council faces is the fact that many who rent scooters and enter the flow of
summertime traffic on Coastal Highway are novice riders who may or may not know
how to operate a scooter efficiently.
“I pulled up behind a
group of about 12 or 15 kids, and none of them were wearing helmets, and it was
pretty obvious that they didn’t really know what they were doing on those
scooters,” said Cymek. “It was plain as the ‘rent me’ sign on the back of the
scooters that they were rentals, and I’m telling you, it is only a matter of
time if we don’t resolve this quickly.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said
that even though there has been a spike in the citations in the last week, he
says he is still encouraged by the amount of riders that he sees wearing
“The fact that the
citations are being written out shows that the police are out there and keeping
tabs on this situations, but we know that they can’t be everywhere at once
either,” said Meehan.
Sources say that a mere
handful of rental stores on the island are likely to blame, as the vast
majority have complied with the town’s law.
However, some say that
it might be hard to determine whether a scooter rider simply removed the
helmet, if they were never offered it at all or if they were offered the helmet
and flat out refused it.
“I think we need to have
a work session and figure out exactly what steps to take next,” said Cymek,
“but I fear that people are looking out for the almighty dollar and aren’t
paying enough attention to safety or our law.”