In the world of two-wheel transportation, you have many options available. Most people usually consider motorcycles for a two-wheeled daily commute, but if you want something smaller, a scooter may be a better option for you. Yet, there may be one inherent question on your mind: are scooters safe? And are they safer when compared to motorcycles? Let’s find out!
You may think of a scooter as a small motorcycle, and in some respects, a scooter is comparable to a motorcycle. Both have two wheels, an engine or motor, and is something you sit on to ride.
Below are the defining attributes of a scooter:
- A scooter (also called a motor scooter) has a step-through frame with an area to rest the rider’s feet. Most are shaped like a platform instead of foot pegs, similar to a traditional motorcycle.
- Scooters have engines starting at 50cc and increase in size up to 850cc. There isn’t an upper limit incorporated to the definition of a scooter, but only a minimum. That maximum currently available is around 850cc.
- Beyond those attributes, there are additional subtle differences between motorcycles and scooters such as smaller wheels, storage space, the transmission used, and traditional front bodywork that some motorcycles don’t have. Given these specs, does that make a scooter safer than a motorcycle?
With scooters typically being lighter in weight, smaller in size, and having a smaller engine, you may think that a scooter must be safer because it isn’t as heavy or can’t go as fast as a motorcycle. However, scooters are considered just as dangerous as motorcycles, as they both are two-wheeled transportation and ride through heavy traffic.
Although some scooters cannot mirror the speed of a motorcycle, it doesn’t put you at less risk than a motorcyclist. Speed does not correlate with lower accident risk. Studies show that more speeding-related traffic fatalities occurred on 35 mph or lower roads (where the lower powered scooters can ride) than on over 55mph interstates.
In many states, a two-wheeled vehicle with an engine 50cc and under does not require a motorcycle license or endorsement. However, anything over 50cc does require a motorcycle license. Therefore, many scooter riders may not have any experience on two wheels, nor have any reason to take a course to learn how to ride, as only a standard state license is required. They can easily purchase a scooter meeting the 50cc engine criteria and ride through traffic unprepared.
Whether on a motorcycle or a scooter, you will face the same weather and environment conditions such as rain, wind, and blinding sunshine. You’re likely to ride the same roads with potholes and navigate through the same traffic filled with larger vehicles.
Despite common misconceptions, scooters are just as dangerous as motorcycles.
- Smaller Wheels – Scooters typically have smaller wheels than a motorcycle. They will be less stable on the road compared to a motorcycle primarily due to the smaller wheels giving less gyroscopic effect (hence the need to be upright). They will also be more susceptible to react to the small hazards in the road, such as potholes, debris, and bumps.
- Less Visibility – It’s difficult to see motorcycles in traffic. A scooter, which is smaller than a typical motorcycle, will be even more difficult to see, putting you in more dangerous when you’re surrounded by heavy traffic, as other motorists may not recognize a scooter and rider in their path on the road.
- Lack of Gear – Scooters are not widely seen as a true commuter vehicle, so riders tend not to wear the proper safety gear while riding compared to a normal motorcyclist. They opt to ride without a helmet, proper jacket, pants, or even good protective footwear. If you’ve been on vacation to a resort or beach, you may have seen the scooter rentals available. They don’t typically ask for a motorcycle license or if you brought proper safety equipment. Therefore, you’re more at risk sans protective gear on a scooter than being on a motorcycle with ATGATT.
While we always want safe riding, there will be inherent risks involved on either a scooter or motorcycle. Below are safety tips on how to ride safely on a scooter:
- Ride Defensively – Given the size of a scooter and their limited visibility, always ride with a plan in mind for safety. If a car turns in front of you, changes into your lane, or rides too close behind you, always be ready to make a course change to stay safe. You are your best defense against other motorists.
- Wear A Helmet – This one should be a no-brainer, and wearing a helmet has been proven to make a difference keeping your head safe. If you’re going to wear one piece of safety gear, make it the helmet.
- Be Visible – Bright colors can make you stand out from a sea of vehicles in traffic, help you stay visible at night with retro-reflective clothing, and generally allow other motorists to see you. Bright and bold can keep you seen and safe.
- Ride Within the Limit of Your Scooter’s Ability – Scooters should be thought of as mostly city street transportation unless they are capable of higher speeds. The smaller scooters may only be able to reach a top speed of 40-50 miles per hours, clearly deeming them not capable of highway or interstate speeds. Be sure to stay safe and ride your scooter appropriately.
- Treat it Like a Motorcycle – Whether your scooter is capable of high or low speeds, treat it like a motorcycle. Apply similar motorcycle safety tips you’ve learned while riding a scooter to keep you safe in traffic.
Regardless of the technical definition differentiating a scooter from a motorcycle, both are two-wheeled transportation that should be ridden cautiously. Riding a scooter exhibits similar risks to riding a motorcycle, but that shouldn’t discourage you from getting out into the road. Be prepared, follow the traffic laws, and stay safe out there!