Law sets strict requirements for motor scooter riders

A 16-year-old girl is dead after crashing her motor scooter on Likelike Hwy. Thursday morning. The tragedy is raising questions about the scooters and the rules that come with them.

Police say the teen was riding on the Kaneohe side of the highway at around 8:30 a.m. with her father, who was on a separate motor scooter. Police say she was ahead of him as they started going up to the H-3 Freeway on-ramp. She lost control and slammed into a guardrail.

Although they look like mopeds, motor scooters are a lot more powerful. Experts say, as far as the laws are concerned, a motor scooter is the same as a motorcycle. There are strict laws for operating them, especially if you’re under 18 years old.

Motor scooters can go faster than 30 miles per hour and are allowed to go on the freeway. Riders are required to have insurance and a motorcycle driver’s license.

Experts say operating a motor scooter isn’t difficult. “It’s very easy to pick up because it’s automatic,” said Russell Odegaard, sales manager at Montgomery Powersports. “There’s no clutch. The brakes are just like what’s on a bicycle.

“Sometimes that could be the problem,” he added. “It’s so easy to pick up that some people will actually get on them and think that they can do it in five minutes.”

But getting a license, especially for a minor, isn’t so easy. Riders need to take a driver’s education course, get a motorcycle learner’s permit, then take a motorcycle safety course. After completing the course, a teenager must go through 40 hours of supervised riding and can’t get a license until he or she has had the permit for at least six months.

Bill Labby runs the motorcycle safety course at Leeward Community College. He says out of 2,000 students a year, only about five percent are minors. When it comes to minors riding motorcycles, “I think that depends on the individual,” he said.

HPD says the 16-year-old girl might have been speeding at the turn when the crash happened. Labby says learning the turn is constantly emphasized in the course. “It is incredibly dangerous If you lose it in a corner, you highside off, you can hit a guard rail,” he said.

HPD says the girl did have a learner’s permit and was legally authorized to ride since her dad was with her.

Labby says if you just got your permit, it’s best to start riding in a parking lot or a street that’s not so busy.

Another motorcyclist died in that same location last year.

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