This is a tragedy that has played out repeatedly on Coastal Highway in recent years. Scooter drivers frequently use the bus lane/shoulder to speed past motorists stuck in congested traffic. The unseen danger occurs where slow-moving motorists might allow another vehicle to cross the highway in front of them to access an intersection or enter a driveway. But scooter riders on the shoulder speed toward that same intersection or driveway entrance unaware and unable to see that they are on a collision course with the vehicle crossing through the heavy traffic.
According to police, this is what appears to have happened yet again this past Saturday. Minutes before 11 a.m., police say the driver of this 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee had stopped in the left turn lane of southbound Coastal Highway at the intersection of Robinson Drive.
Prior to the collision, states MCpl. Gary Fournier, state police spokesman, traffic on Coastal Highway was extremely congested in both directions. Northbound traffic stopped to allow the Cherokee to cross the highway, and as the Jeep started to cross both northbound lanes of Coastal Highway, the driver of the Jeep failed to see the scooter traveling north on the shoulder and crossed directly in front of him.
The scooter crashed into the Jeep’s passenger’s side door. After the impact, the scooter rider was thrown from the scooter and came to rest on the northbound shoulder. The Jeep driver continued turning left onto Robinson Drive and came to a controlled stop in the parking lot of Just in Thyme.
A state police news release identifies the driver of the Jeep as Laura L. Mason, 45, of Rehoboth and the scooter driver as Kenneth J. Seltzer, Jr., 27, also of Rehoboth. Police said Mason was properly restrained and uninjured in the collision.
Seltzer, police said, was not wearing a helmet and was initially taken by ambulance to Beebe Hospital before he was transferred to Christiana Hospital where he was last reported on Saturday in critical condition.
The accident remains under investigation and no charges have been filed at this time, police said. Furthermore, police say alcohol or drugs do not appear to be contributing factors in this case.
Although this was the most serious scooter crash on Coastal Highway this past week, it was just one of several involving scooters. Just before midnight last Monday, a 40-year-old male scooter rider was injured at the Indian River Inlet Bridge. He also wore no helmet and suffered injuries to his face and back after colliding with a car. MCpl. Gary E. Fournier, state police spokesman, says the scooter driver has been charged with driving while suspended or revoked, failure to reinstate, failure to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the highway, and failure to display license plate. A scooter can be driven on the highway, although, MCpl. Fournier adds, in this case he was driving in the travel lane at a speed slower-than-the-posted 55 m.p.h. limit and was not closer to the right-hand edge of the highway (on the shoulder).
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT SCOOTER CRASHES ON THE SHOULDER OF COASTAL HIGHWAY?
George Panarello, a blogger and owner of All Wheels Bike & Scooter Shop has a few suggestions for dealing with the scooter accidents on the shoulder of Coastal Highway. If the posted speed limit is 45 m.p.h. or lower, he recommends that scooters ride in the lane of traffic. For greater speeds he suggests that the scooters move to the shoulder to keep from impeding traffic. “The safety issue of that will be minimal due to the fact that those high-speed roads are ‘limited access’ roadways so the turn-offs/turn-ons are very reduced and collisions will be reduced,” he points out.
“If we allow the shoulder riding to continue,” Panarello adds, “then we have to post shoulder speed limits and enforce them with tremendous intensity.” He is suggesting a 15 m.p.h. limit for the shoulder. “That way if you want to go faster, you have to move into the lane of traffic which ‘quietly’ achieves the safety goal without overt action/litigations.” While he does not think it is feasible, he also recommends better marking and lighting for all highway shoulders to make it obvious that they are being used by scooters.