OCEAN CITY – Scoot coupe rentals are warned to obey state law or by next summer Ocean City will take action.
Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and officers presented the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday with the ongoing issues of scoot coupes, which are three-wheeled passenger scooters resembling a mini car.
State law requires scoot coupe motors to be no larger than 50 ccs, which wouldn’t allow the scooter to go any faster than 35 mph. The scooters are allowed to drive in the bus lanes on Coastal Highway.
“We have reason to believe through investigative abilities that all rental companies except for one are in violation, over 50 ccs,” DiPino said.
Lt. Scott Harner said the challenge the police department faces is that there is no city law allowing them to enforce the state law. He recommended to the Mayor and City Council to consider an ordinance that would require scoot coupe rentals to have engines disassembled to a point where the police department can inspect the motor size. The motor would then be tagged once it passes inspection so the department can recognize if the company is a repeat violator.
“If it would be consistent with other laws, it would be a fine up to $1,000 or a suspension of their rental license,” Harner said.
DiPino added the companies would also be in violation of state law because if the scoot coupes are on the road driving faster than 35 mph then they should be registered as a vehicle. Police could charge the rental company with an unregistered vehicle and driving without a tag or license plate.
“We could hit them with state laws but what we need is the power to physically go to the locations and inspect, and right now the only way to inspect is to pull over the driver of the scoot coupe which would then inhibit the vacationer and they don’t know if they are riding a vehicle other than 50 ccs,” she said.
Sgt. Doug Smith pointed out that there may be a safety hazard in scoot coupes being regulated to obtain a 50 cc motor. He explained that by taking a 50 cc scoot coupe for a test drive he found it difficult to maneuver over handicapped curbs located at every intersection and crosswalk around town, and in order to drive over the curb from a complete stop he would have to place the scoot coupe into full throttle. He added that with his body weight he could only get up to the speed of 22 mph.
“I don’t advocate it and don’t support it because it is too high of a rate of speed plus they would be violating the law because they would be going over 35 mph in the bus lane,” DiPino said.
On the other hand, Smith said that he has observed other scoot coupes driving over 40 mph in town recognizing the fact it is a safety hazard.
“When we brought the state police down here, they acknowledged that they issued the state law the way it was when they inspected the scoot coupe, they went off of the certificate of origin,” he said.
Another problem is the certificate of origin and the scoot coupe motors are labeled as 50 ccs but in reality the motor size is larger, allowing it to drive much faster than deemed. Smith said that motors stamped as 50 ccs can actually be up to 125 cc.
“There are just a number of things that I perceive we have to act … we need to do it or its going to get worse,” Smith said. “I have seen them at 40 close to 50 mph running around town, there is just no way that these 50 cc motors can pull that.”
DiPino said enforcement would be the first step and that the town is also experiencing issues with two-wheeled scooters.
“It will be a challenge but again it is public safety and it is our responsibility because it’s within the corporate limits of Ocean City,” she said.
City Solicitor Guy Ayres said there has been discussion involving a licensing procedure and there would be a fee associated to cover city costs.
The rental company would have to notify the police department to make
the scoot coupes available for inspection, and they will have to be “motor ready”, or have the motor properly disassembled for inspection.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said she advocated having the scoot coupes eliminated altogether.
“Do away with them because it is only going to increase and the people riding these things are going to be in danger because they can’t even get going in the bus lane so we are looking at serious public safety issues,” she said.
Councilman Doug Cymek motioned to have an ordinance drafted to allow the police department to inspect the motor size of scoot coupes. “They brought this on themselves,” Cymek said. “If they would have gone along with the law, they wouldn’t be here.”
Councilman Lloyd Martin supported the motion. “I truly believe they are going faster than they should go so I think this would be a good way to mandate that they are 50 ccs and they stay within state law,” he said.
The council voted to move the ordinance forward into written form to be acted upon in time for next summer.
“Letters have already gone out today to the scoot coupes and all the companies notifying them that they are in violation of the law and that the police department is going to have enforcement in the future and they are going to have to comply,” DiPino said.