Sheriff Jesse Bane was on his way home recently, driving into his neighborhood, when a "kid" on a scooter was heading straight toward him in the middle of the road.
Bane stopped, and the person on the scooter pulled to the side of the road. Bane started driving again, and as he did, the person on the scooter started to drive across the street to catch up with a friend.
"I nearly hit him," Bane said. "Then I scared him half to death when he saw I was a deputy sheriff."
Drivers of the scooters such as the one being ridden recently in Bane's Fallston neighborhood will come under closer scrutiny beginning Monday, Oct. 1, when new state laws regarding their use go into effect.
Anyone driving a motor scooter or moped, which may not be driven on roads where the speed limit is more than 50 mph, must have a title for the equipment and the decal must be displayed on it, as well as insurance, and carry proof of insurance with them. Drivers will also have to wear protective head and eye gear.
Motor scooters, which are strictly motorized, and mopeds, which can be operated with pedals, have become a problem in Harford County, the sheriff said.
"Kids are riding these vehicles on the street, some on highways that have speeds of 50 to 55 mph. Why should we look out for the interest of people on motorcycles and ignore motor scooters?" Bane said. "They are subject to the same danger as anyone else – fatalities, injuries – as any other vehicle, when they're put on the road."
Drivers of such vehicles don't pay attention to other drivers, or to the rules of the road, the sheriff said, and they're often weaving in and out of traffic and in the middle of the lane, causing hazards for larger vehicles.
"Scooters started out as a fad, you saw one or two. Now they're everywhere," Lt. Michael Wann, commander of the Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack, said. "Eventually, we will have a serious crash. This may slow down a number of scooters you see out there."
Existing scooter and moped owners will not have to pay to have their transportation titled, Bane said, and they will have a year to get it. The title fee will only apply to new equipment, which must be titled before it can be on the road.
Sheriff's deputies will be looking closely for the illegal scooters and mopeds and issue the applicable citations, Bane said. In some instances, the vehicles will have to be towed, because if a vehicle doesn't have a title, it can't be on the road.
"Parents will have to get the vehicle, and pay the tow and insurance bill – which would not be cheap," Bane said.
Scooter and moped drivers who do follow the rules of the road won't be penalized, Bane said.
"There are responsible moped riders, a lot of them," Bane said. "Other than a title and insurance card, there's not going to be a big shakeup for them. They don't need a law to tell them the dangers."