Spring Visitor Becomes Moped Casualty, Suffering Serious Injuries in Chilmark


The Vineyard received an unfortunate sign of the summer season's approach last weekend when a Mashpee woman suffered severe injuries after her rental moped slipped off South Road in Chilmark Sunday afternoon.

Denise Davis, 33, of Mashpee, lost control of her moped on a straight stretch near Quansoo Road as she moved closer to the road's edge to make room for passing cars, said Chilmark police chief Timothy Rich.

Emergency medical technicians rushed Ms. Davis to Martha's Vineyard Hospital, where she was treated for a collapsed lung, several fractured ribs and a fractured clavicle. She was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Monday after undergoing an operation on her lung, and remains in fair condition this week.

"We had a 50 per cent crash rate at the opening day of the season. In 2002, it's already one accident too many," said Chief Rich, an active opponent of the Island's rental moped industry, this week.

Ms. Davis and her friend, Barbara Theroux, also from the Cape, spent Sunday traveling across the Island on two mopeds they rented from Adventure Rentals in Vineyard Haven. The two women were returning from the Gay Head Cliffs around 4 o'clock that afternoon when the accident occured.

"These were mature, intelligent women who intentionally planned their visit in April to avoid traffic," said Sam Feldman, leader of Mopeds are Dangerous, a grass-roots Island group fighting for tougher regulations for the moped rental industry. "They never would have rented in May, June, July or August. But that didn't save them from a devastating accident."

Mr. Feldman happened upon the accident Sunday afternoon and has been in contact with Ms. Theroux this week.

Robert Clermont, owner of Adventure Rentals, said Ms. Davis and Ms. Theroux watched a three-minute instructional video and signed an inherent risk form - two measures moped dealers agreed to institute last season after negotiations with Mopeds are Dangerous and Island police.

Last spring, members of the advocacy group agreed to stop pushing for proposed legislation that would have required moped renters to have a motorcycle license. In exchange, dealers agreed to help pay for a training video, to increase on-site training, to require renters to sign an "inherent risk form" that warns riders of dangerous curves, sandy shoulders and twisty, crowded roads in Chilmark and Aquinnah and spells out specific dangers of moped travel.

"We've tried to get the moped dealers to spend more time on training. Obviously, those measures aren't working. We need a state law that requires some type of licensing" for moped renters, Mr. Feldman said.

Residents of Oak Bluffs agree. In a nonbinding vote at their annual town meeting, Oak Bluffs voters backed a proposal that would require moped renters to have a motorcycle license.

Forty-three moped-related injuries were treated at the hospital emergency room last summer, down from 66 in 2000, according to Dr. Alan Hirshberg. The facility director has kept track of injuries resulting from bicycle, moped and motorcycle accidents, but said the emergency room had not planned to collect similar data this season.

"Hopefully we don't see a trend beginning," Dr. Hirshberg said this week.

The early moped accident added new steam to the fight for tougher regulations of the moped industry.

"The resources of the hospital and EMTs are being stretched for the sake of profits for the moped industry. That isn't right," Mr. Feldman said.

"Until people say ‘enough is enough,' this will continue," Chief Rich said.