Emergency Responders Report Moped Accidents Down Again
By BRIEN HEFLER
Moped accidents were down again on the Vineyard this summer, and emergency responders cite better public safety education as a possible factor.
Preliminary numbers compiled by the four ambulance departments on the Island show that the departments responded to an average number of calls during the summer months, with a slight increase in the down-Island departments.
But across the board the number of moped accidents saw a significant drop.
Ambulance departments in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and Tri-Town Ambulance, which handles calls from Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury, are still compiling official tallies for the season.
But preliminary numbers show a nominal increase in call volume.
Joan Condlin, captain of emergency medical services for the town of Edgartown, said her department saw a sharp increase in calls in July over last year, with 90 calls this year versus 74 last year. As for the rest of the season, Ms. Condlin said it was about average. She said the department responded to fewer moped accidents than in past summers, a positive trend echoed by the other ambulance departments.
"We've seen a significant drop in moped calls. I hope that we can attribute that to public awareness and education," Ms. Condlin said. She said the Edgartown ambulance department responded to under 10 moped accidents this summer, whereas in past summers the majority of runs were for moped-related injuries.
Likewise, in Oak Bluffs total ambulance runs increased but moped accidents declined this year. Oak Bluffs fire chief Dennis Alley said the ambulance department's call volume has increased by about 10 per cent compared to last year. He said many of the runs involve transports for patients to off-Island hospitals.
Previous study shows that moped accidents declined Island-wide between 2000 and 2003. Four people have been killed in moped related accidents since 1996; the last fatality was in 2001.
Dr. Alan Hirshberg, former director of emergency services at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, had led a running study of moped accidents, but the hospital no longer keeps data on moped related injuries seen in the emergency room.
Betsy VanLandingham, clinical coordinator for the hospital, said there did appear to be a drop.
"It appears that moped accidents have decreased. I'm wondering if it's a smaller number of people renting them, a smaller number being available to rent or if people are getting better training - I don't know," she said.
Jeff Pratt, ambulance coordinator for the town of Tisbury, said his department saw a 10 per cent increase in calls this season, and had responded to over 270 calls by the end of August. Mr. Pratt said Tisbury traditionally has a higher number of calls year-round than other towns, which he attributes partly to the town's large elderly population. Mr. Pratt also noted that moped accidents were down this summer and said the number of bicycle accidents was about par for the summer.
Tri-Town Ambulance reports a relatively quiet summer. Martina Mastromonaco, coordinator for the department, said call volume was either average or below average compared to past summers. Mrs. Mastromonaco noted that the addition of paramedics, an emergency service upgrade adopted across the Island earlier this year, has changed the nature of calls and placed an increasing demand on the ambulance staff. While the department's call volume has been steady, the need for new emergency medical technicians is paramount to keep the program running, Mrs. Mastromonaco said.
"We desperately need new EMTs," she said. "Some of us have been around for a long time and while the volume may be down, hours are not. We need new volunteers because we have such a large distance to cover."
The Island currently has over 60 trained EMTs, 10 paramedics and nine ambulances, which, through mutual assistance, provide blanket coverage.