Preventing Scooter Crashes on Coastal Highway Shoulder

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Last Sunday’s motor scooter (moped) crash on the shoulder of Coastal Highway at Church Street outside of Rehoboth was indeed similar to the previous ones. Sr. Cpl. Jason Hatchell, state police spokesman, says the 18-year-old male rider was headed north along the shoulder approaching Church Street as this Mitsubishi Eclipse was turning across from the southbound side of the highway, he said.

Northbound traffic was backed up for a red traffic signal at Rehoboth Avenue-Extended and the stopped traffic extended south of Church Street. Drivers in the northbound lanes left an opening for the Eclipse to cross the northbound lanes. But as the Eclipse crossed the northbound lanes it entered the northbound shoulder and collided with the scooter.

As of Thursday, Cpl. Leonard DeMalt, state police spokesman, says no charges have been filed in this incident. The rider was last reported in stable condition. The investigation is still active and ongoing, he added.

But what can be done to prevent these shoulder collisions with scooters on this section of Coastal Highway, like this crash from 2017?

George Panarello of All Wheels Bike Shop which is right there on the highway has spent years thinking about the problem and warning his customers. He does not recommend riding on the shoulder. Riders should be mindful of every mailbox, driveway and cross street, he points out, as motorists typically don’t look at their right-hand mirror when turning right. Panarello says he would like the law changed for scooters riding on the shoulder to require them to turn right at the first availability or otherwise ride in the main traffic lanes at the posted speed limit.

He is in favor of a dual-speed zone, something which he says DelDOT has opposed. For example, regular auto traffic could travel at 40 m.p.h. on the traffic lanes while scooters could be restricted to 17 m.p.h. on the shoulder. Scooters could also use the regular traffic lanes at 40 m.p.h. This would prevent these frequent collisions on the shoulder.

If any of these suggestions sound familiar, it’s because he made them several years ago.

Here are a few examples of similar scooter crashes on the Coastal Highway shoulder from 20152017 and 2019.

“We recognize that moped [motor scooter] incidents are a serious matter in the resort areas during the summer months and want to make sure that those drivers remain safe while operating mopeds,” says Pam Lilly, DelDOT spokeswoman. DelDOT worked with the Delaware State Police and the Office of Highway Safety to develop this brochure on moped safety, she points out. Copies of the brochures were also sent to several businesses that rent mopeds in resort areas for customers.

Additionally, Lilly points out, the overall¬†Strategic Highway Safety Plan¬†categories are based on federal recommendations, and mopeds are not one of those categories. In past conversations with public officials and with the public at various meetings, mopeds were not mentioned as a pressing, statewide issue, she said. “Again, we recognize this as a seasonal issue and hope that drivers are vigilant to keep an eye out for moped riders in the resort areas and know the rules of the road to keep everyone safe while on our roadways,” she added.


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