Scooter drivers in Fayetteville have less than a month to purchase basic insurance coverage.
City Council members this week passed an ordinance requiring liability coverage for anyone who drives a motorized bicycle, motor scooter, or moped (under 50cc) within the city limits. Vehicle registration is not required.
The law was first proposed in December by Alderman Alan Long as an effort to protect drivers from a growing number of uninsured motorists.
According to Fayetteville police, there were 116 wrecks involving scooters over the past three years: 29 in 2012; 44 in 2013; and 43 in 2014.
Of those accidents, 91 included scooter drivers who were uninsured: 21 in 2012; 35 in 2013; and 35 in 2014.
Also, 51 of those accidents were determined to have been caused by scooter drivers: 15 in 2012; 16 in 2013; and 20 in 2014.
Note: Numbers don’t include accidents on the UA campus.
“With the recent increase in the number of gasoline engine powered mopeds and scooters in Fayetteville, I feel that they should be insured, especially when they are being operated on city streets,” said Long.
Long said when a scooter driver causes an accident which damages other cars or trucks, the drivers who weren’t at fault must file a claim against their own uninsured motorist coverage in order have their vehicle repaired.
While a scooter isn’t likely to cause significant damage to a full-size vehicle in a direct collision, he said, his concern is the possibility that a motor scooter could cause another driver to hit other vehicles or to swerve off the road and into a ditch.
Long said police reports show a 28 percent increase in accidents involving scooters over the past three years, and a 5 percent drop in liability coverage for scooter drivers involved in accidents.
Mike Reynolds, Fayetteville deputy police chief, told City Council members he was in strong support of Long’s proposal.
“The concern for us is the number of accidents we’re starting to see and the injuries associated with those accidents,” Reynolds said. “Insurance would provide a remedy for individuals that incur injury or property damage to seek relief.”
Council members went back and forth about the idea at their most recent meeting on Tuesday.
Alderman John LaTour said while it’s a good cause, the law could be confusing for drivers from other cities who might not know about Fayetteville’s requirement. He said a law like this is more suited to be addressed at the state level.
Reynolds said police this year lobbied for action at the state level that would require basic liability coverage for scooters, but failed to get enough support, likely because it’s an isolated issue that’s faced primarily in college towns.
Alderwoman Adella Gray said the upward trend of scooters and non-insured drivers indicates a real problem for Fayetteville residents who could be forced to pay for damage they didn’t cause.
Alderwoman Sarah Marsh said she was torn because while it’s a good idea, she was hesitant to impose an extra financial burden on scooter drivers – many who could be driving a scooter specifically because of the low associated costs.
Calls to local insurance companies indicate a basic liability coverage policy for a motor scooter can cost between $50 and $100 per year, depending on an individual’s driving record and whether they opt for personal injury coverage.
Alderman Justin Tennant said he changed his mind on the issue several times, but ultimately decided that one of the jobs of the City Council is to protect people from situations like this. At an average of $75 per year, Tennant said the cost of liability insurance for a small scooter likely isn’t unbearable.
“If our police department thinks it’s the best thing, we have to take that into consideration,” said Tennant.
When the new law goes into effect on May 8, any scooter driver who is involved in an accident or stopped by police will be required to show proof of liability insurance. As with most Fayetteville ordinances, anyone who violates the law could face a fine of up to $500.