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Educate your new riders on scooter safety

At face value, this is a good thing. Lots of people who otherwise wouldn't be on two wheels are joining the club in what appears to be some pretty substantial numbers. Some of these people will drop out, some will stick with scooters and some will graduate to motorcycles. Just as dual-purpose bikes were the gateway motorcycle to street bikes in the '60s and '70s, scooters could be the catalyst that finally motivates Gen Y'ers to adopt a two-wheel lifestyle, replacing Boomers who've been our bread and butter since the '60s.

TEDDY BEAR OF TWO-WHEELS

But how many of these newcomers are going through a rider education program, or even have a motorcycle license? One of the attractions of the scooter, aside from its practicality, is that it's not intimidating; it's kind of the teddy-bear of two-wheels; colorful, cute, and easy to operate.

I agree, it is kind of cute, but riding any two-wheeler, as we all know, carries with it hazards not associated with cars. All of the risks of riding a motorcycle are present when riding a scooter. The difference is that a person riding a motorcycle usually knows that motorcycling can be dangerous, even fatal. I don't believe that people riding scooters have that same perception, and I bet a lot of dealers are telling their customers that scooters are less dangerous than motorcycles.

As more people switch from driving cars to riding scooters, it's inevitable that the accident and fatality rates are going to increase for two-wheeled vehicles. If you think the current controversy concerning the past few years' increasing motorcycle fatality rates have created a problem for the industry, think about what will happen when scooter rider numbers are added to the column.

Most folks expect motorcyclists to have accidents. It's accepted, and frequently attributed to an over-abundance of testosterone in the adult men who make up the majority of riders. From my observations, scooter riders are a different breed; younger, with more women and no motivation to ride other than a desire to save money. Dad, who would never allow his teenage daughter or son to ride a motorcycle, is probably amenable to letting them buy and ride a scooter — after all, they're harmless. Think of the outrage Dad is going to have when said son or daughter kisses the pavement and leaves their face on the street (I've never seen a scooter rider with a full-face helmet), or breaks an arm or a leg, or suffers a fatality when the car turning left doesn't see them.

Of course, the accident somehow will have been the fault of the scooter, and Dad, or Mom, will begin to work to tell everyone they know how dangerous these things are and how they should be taken off the street.

Accidents can never be eliminated, but they can be reduced and averted if the rider has been through a proper rider education program. Make sure that when you sell a scooter, or a motorcycle for that matter, the person is encouraged and informed about local rider education programs, and the importance of having a license. Also encourage them to buy a decent helmet, as well.

With the prospect of continuingly increasing fuel costs, people will look for ways to stretch their commuting dollars. Scooters and motorcycles are going to be a solution for many, particularly in the Sunbelt region. It's your responsibility to make sure these newcomers are aware of training programs and their benefits, and the necessity of licensing.

You've been presented with a great opportunity to expand your business. It's up to you to manage that opportunity to produce the best possible outcome, or risk seeing an opportunity being ground away by escalating accident rates that could have been alleviated by proper training.

Mike Vaughan is the former publisher of Dealernews. You can reach him at mvaughan@mikevaughan.com or via editors@dealernews.com.