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A Times Editorial

Proceed with caution on scooter safety laws

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2001

The Hernando County Commission should consider all available options to increase the safety of children who are caught up in the craze of fold-up scooters. Those options should include, but not necessarily be limited to:

Launching a public awareness campaign, in conjunction with the Sheriff's Office and public schools, to educate parents and children about the dangers of riding scooters and not wearing protective gear.

Lowering speed limits in areas where youngsters gather to ride the stylish lightweight scooters, such as near residential parks and schools.

Urging the sheriff to step up traffic enforcement in those areas, as well as forcing scooter riders to obey the same laws as bicyclists and skateboarders.

And consider having county staff work up a realistic proposal for building a centrally located specialty park for skateboard and scooter users.

However, when the commissioners discuss this subject at their meeting today, they should stop short of enacting a law requiring all scooter riders to wear safety helmets. Although wearing helmets and other protective safety gear greatly diminishes the chance of serious injury, the commission should consider that as a last resort, at least until it is convinced scooters are more than a passing fad, and that the sheriff is prepared to enforce the law.

The death of a 12-year-old Spring Hill boy, Stewart Abramowicz, and the serious injury of his twin brother Anthony, in January has focused debate about scooter safety. Residents in the neighborhood of Pinehurst Drive near Pioneer Park have collected signatures on petitions urging the County Commission to take various actions.

The commission has been very attentive and is to be commended for scheduling a discussion about the issue while the tragic consequences of inaction are still fresh in everyone's minds. However, the commission is obligated to act in the best interest of all its constituents and to move slowly toward specific and effective conclusions.

Ultimately, responsible parenting is still the best protection a child can have against recreational injuries. But government certainly has a role in fostering an atmosphere of caring and involvement, and our elected officials should be prepared to devote funding and resources toward that end. The first step, and one easily achieved through communication with parents, should be to raise awareness of the problem.

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