Find out if gas scooters are a more economical travel choice.
Gas scooters, commonly referred to as mopeds, are two-wheeled motorized vehicles that have become popular alternatives to gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. Many drivers are turning to gas scooters to save money and zip around heavy traffic. This article discusses the advantages of gas scooters and gas scooter safety.
Gas scooters are distinguishable from motorcycles in a few important ways. First, a scooter's engine is less powerful, with only one or two cylinders and a displacement of less than 50 cubic centimeters (cc). Many laws also define scooters as being unable to exceed a speed of 30 miles per hour on a flat surface.
In appearance, scooters are defined as having a platform for the driver's feet, as well as what's known as a "step-through" design, where the space between the operator's seat and the handlebars is lower than the seat itself. The price of gas scooters varies according to their power and brand name, but an average 50cc scooter can be purchased for about $3,000 (as of 2008). Higher end scooter models come with such amenities as cast aluminum frames, counter-balancing technology, windshields and even heated hand grips.
Although the scooter's origins have been debated, Salsbury Scooters and Cushman Scooters were two early manufacturers. These American-made scooters were used extensively in World War II as inexpensive vehicles with flexible terrain capabilities. Soon after, production of Vespa scooters took off in Italy, and Vespa remains one of the top-selling scooter brands in Europe today. Major Japanese car manufacturers, such as Honda and Yamaha, have also entered the scooter-manufacturing industry, though China is the world's leading producer; over half of all the world's scooters come from Chinese brands.
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales of motor scooters have increased rapidly in the past few years, doubling from 2000 to 2005.
There are a few advantages to owning a motorized scooter, though the laws regarding their use vary from state to state. For one, in some areas scooters do not have to be registered with the state's department of motor vehicles (DMV), nor is it required that they have license plates. In certain states, scooters also aren't required by law to be insured, and in most places it's legal to ride motorized scooters on any streets on which cars are allowed (though in some cases the law enforces scooter riders to use only the right lane).
The most obvious reason to buying a scooter, though, is that they consume far less gas than cars and motorcycles. Most scooters get an average of 60 miles per gallon, which amounts to less than half of what most drivers spend on gas for their cars. As oil prices rise around the world, scooters are becoming a viable transportation alternative for consumers interested in saving money on gas.
Experts advise that every precaution be taken when riding motorized scooters, as they can be very dangerous if operated improperly. One recent study from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that more than 10,000 emergency room injuries between June 2003 and June 2004 involved scooters, and that just four out of every 10 injured riders were wearing helmets.
Because of their small size, scooters are easily bumped into oncoming traffic or off the road by drivers of cars and trucks, leading to a comparatively high degree of fatal accidents for scooter riders. Many of the victims of these accidents are children, as scooters do not require a license for use in many states, although most of these states do enforce the law that all scooter riders be at least 16 years of age.
To stay safe on a motor scooter, riders should be careful not to speed and to avoid getting too close in front or behind cars. They should also restrict riding to roads with smooth surfaces, and avoid gravel or loose rock, which could cause the scooter to slip.
Parents considering purchasing a gas scooter for their family should make sure all riders are properly trained before being allowed to ride on busy streets. Empty back roads or parking lots are great places to learn the ropes. Some experts suggest that parents demand that their children wear elbow and knee pads, along with helmets, to ensure maximum safety. To reduce risk, parents can make rules about using scooters in traffic or at night, and, of course, never under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Scooters aren't designed to carry passengers, so only one person should ride a scooter at a time. Learning how to ride a motorized scooter can be tricky, so practice can be beneficial for utilizing the machine effectively. Scooter training is offered in several communities; contact the local DMV office for details.