SCOOTERS are prone to many of the same safety issues as motorcycles. Their size makes them difficult for drivers to see, and on smaller-displacement models in particular, their low power makes mixing with fast-moving traffic more challenging.
If you want to ride a scooter and aren't already a regular rider of two wheels, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a few recommendations.
First, start bicycling "to get used to balancing on two wheels and using the hand controls," said Ray Ochs, MSF's training systems director. Once you've mastered those skills, you'd do well to sign up for a safety course. The MSF Scooter School teaches riders street strategies as well as how to operate the controls of a small scooter. The four-hour class runs riders through a series of exercises, but there isn't a skill test; riders have to take the test required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain the M1 license for operating a motor vehicle, without pedals, of 49 cc or bigger.
Scooter School is not currently available in California. A better option is the Basic RiderCourse administered through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. The 15-hour course is the same class recommended to beginning motorcyclists. It features five hours of classroom instruction to familiarize riders with safety issues and 10 hours of riding. The class concludes with a skill test that, if passed, waives the riding test at the DMV; the written test is still required for the M1 license.
For information, call (877) 743-3411 or visit www.ca-msp.org.