Lawmakers aim to expand moped regulations with a focus on safety
Lack of safety gear, including no helmet, excessive speed and unexpected traffic congestion were factors that contributed to the death of 22-year-old Lee How in a moped accident in the middle of the University of Hawai‘i campus, on Dole Street, in late October.
He was the sixth moped fatality on Oʻahu roads in 2016.
“One [death] is already too much” said Officer Nelson Omandam of the Honolulu Police Department.
State law requires helmets for riders 18 years old and younger. Some lawmakers want to expand that rule to include all moped riders, regardless of age.
There are 19 states and the District of Columbia that require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those are known as universal helmet laws.
More than half of the states (28), Hawaii included, require only some riders to wear a helmet.
Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire are the only three states that don’t require helmet use law.
Honolulu Police Department Lt. Carlene Lau said the speed limit is a core concern, because it is designed for everyone’s safety.
“We need to take our time, slow down, and yield to each other, and we need to walk with Aloha, and drive with Aloha,” said Lau.
“People who have no money and can’t get that brake fixed, and then they try to stop, and they run into a pedestrian and they put that person in the hospital or worst,” said Sabo. “Those kinds of people should not be riding a moped because they can’t afford it.”
Safety gear may prevent another death on our island roads.
In addition to helmets for riders 18 years and younger, other safety requirements were omitted from a recent bill that increased moped regulations.
HB1753 now requires moped owners to annually register and do a safety check of their mopeds.
The bill was intended to cut down on modified scooters that increase noise pollution in neighborhoods. By annually checking mopeds, lawmakers hoped it would crack down on modified, noisy mopeds, too. However, not everyone supports the idea.
Rep. McDermott voted against the bill saying, “I think registering them like cars is a bit of a stretch because it adds expense to an inexpensive mode of transportation. … Part of it is just a money grab for us, to be honest.”
Manabo Sabo and Akihiro Murakoshi, owner and operator of Mr. Scooters, went to testify against the bill. They stated they would support the bill if it meant ensuring the safety of moped riders. But they don’t believe that’s why the bill got passed.
“If you have a loud moped, actually it could save your life because people know you’re coming,” said Sabo.
Even with the safety inspections, there will be moped riders that pass the tests and afterwards revert their moped back into a modified one, said Sabo.
Sabo suggests a solution to have technicians like himself and Murakoshi run the safety inspections.
“I’ve done a thousand tune ups in seven years, so I can tell if a moped’s gonna pass or fail a safety [inspection] within five minutes,” Sabo said.
Those who can pay for modified mopeds aren’t the only issue, but those who can’t afford to maintain their vehicle as well.
Senator Josh Green
Once worked as an Emergency Room Physician and said that he’s seen far too many fatalities because riders weren’t wearing helmets.He’d like to change that.
“I will be introducing legislation, whether it passes or not is up to my colleagues,” Sen. Green said.
Green felt like he has been a lone voice in the fight to mandate safety gear for moped riders. However, other lawmakers are expressing support of additional gear requirements for motorists on two wheels.
The transportation chair also has expressed urgency to pass safety gear legislation according to Sen. Green.
Representative bob mcdermott
“You got to protect your head. So whether it’s a skateboard, bicycle, moped or motorcycle, I would support helmets for that.”
MUFFLERS ARE EASY TO CHANGE; AUTO INSPECTIONS ALREADY ARE HAVING ISSUES
"I just didn’t support that bill because we already have problems with our auto inspections. There are not enough stations, especially out here in East Honolulu. It takes two to three hours to get through for safety inspections. So my concern was that by adding more vehicles to the required sections that we would wait to get our vehicles inspected would be even longer.
Because as I understand it, the mufflers on the mopeds are pretty easy to change out. So if somebody wants to have a loud muffler all they have to do is go to the inspection, and once that’s done, put on the loud muffler again. I don’t understand how effective those mufflers would be. "
AWARENESS & EDUCTION ARE KEY
It’s common for Ismael Salameh to have close calls because of Hawaii’s obstacles and challenges, such as; tight roads, poor merging lanes, stop-go traffic and reckless drivers.
Salameh believes increased regulations aren’t the solution, but awareness and education is. Prior to getting his license, he had completed a motorcycle safety course at Leeward Community College.
“The safety course is optional but ultimately is more beneficial in the long run."
Salameh feels that safety gear doesn’t need to be mandated by law, but instead moped drivers should have enough care and common sense to protect themselves on the road.