The recent moped accident that resulted in the death of a young woman replayed all too many similar past events. One summer day many years ago I received a call from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital asking if I could stand by to fly (to Boston) the family members of a young woman who had just been critically injured in a moped accident. I waited for hours to hear if the woman would be helicoptered out. Finally I called the hospital. An ER nurse told me, “she’s crashing”.

There has been considerable online reaction to the Gazette story including numerous suggestions of how to solve the interface between mopeds, cars, and trucks combined with narrow roads, high density traffic, inexperienced riders, speed differences, etc.

What is most curious is the wisdom of legislators regarding certain low speed vehicles, while simultaneously ignoring mopeds which present the very same, if not greater hazards. MGL Chapter 90, Section 1F includes the following:

“A municipality may, by ordinance, prohibit the operation of low-speed vehicles on a way or a portion of a way within its jurisdiction and under its control, regardless of posted speeds, where it finds that use of the way or a particular portion of the way by low-speed motor vehicles would represent an unreasonable risk of death or serious injury to occupants of low-speed vehicles because of general traffic conditions which shall include, but not be limited to, excessive speeds of other vehicles, traffic volumes, use of the way by heavy trucks or other large vehicles or if the established speed limit on the way increases above 30 miles per hour beyond the point where a low-speed vehicle could safely exit the way.”

Obviously sensible; however mopeds are not included by definition:

“Low-speed motor vehicle’’ or “low-speed vehicle’’, a motor vehicle as defined in 49 C.F.R. § 571.3 as a vehicle that is 4-wheeled, whose speed attainable in 1 mile is more than 20 miles per hour and not more than 25 miles per hour on a paved level surface and whose gross vehicle weight rating is less than 3,000 pounds.

Whereas a moped is defined as a: “Motorized bicycle’’, a pedal bicycle which has a helper motor, or a non-pedal bicycle which has a motor, with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and which is capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour.”

Other than an outright ban, towns might limit roadways where mopeds are permitted. Alternately, ban them altogether when expected traffic magnifies the hazard, perhaps May 15 through Sept. 15. Anything less draconian is likely ineffectual, but neither may be possible without enabling legislation.

Ted Stanley

West Tisbury