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Mopeds in IC spark helmet discussion

BY BRITTANY TREVICK | AUGUST 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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MopedU’s rentals have skyrocketed, with the company’s entire fleet of 83 mopeds rented for the fall.

The 6-month-old company has even begun selling the vehicles, with around a dozen mopeds having been sold since July.

“Business has been busy,” said Bryan Ilg, a University of Iowa alum and a co-owner of MopedU. “Very busy.”

But with such success, safety becomes a big concern.

Ilg said to ensure riders’ safety, he gives renters a training session to familiarize them with the functions of the vehicle, informs them about the state laws, and also recommends them to use helmets.

“We strongly encourage the use of helmets,” he said. “Especially after recent events.”

Ilg was referring to the death of 17-year-old Caroline Found of Iowa City. According to a release from the Iowa City police, she died after she failed to negotiate a curve on her moped and struck a curb, causing her to lose control and hit a tree in Coralville. The West High student was reportedly not wearing a helmet.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all [to enforce helmets],” Ilg said. “I think Iowa might be one of the last states that doesn’t enforce even motorcycle helmets. I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t [be required].”

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton agreed in some respect, but she focused more on the enforcement of helmets for minors.

“I think adults can make their own decision,” she said. “[But] I think until someone is 18, it would not be unreasonable to require minors to wear helmets.”

Iowa law defines a moped as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle that can’t travel faster than 30 mph. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are 22 states that require all low-power cyclists to wear helmets, 25 that require some — such as minors — and three in which helmets are not required at all.

Iowa is one of the latter.

Corinne Peek-Asa, a University of Iowa professor of occupational and environmental health and the director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, said she supports helmet laws, because evidence from more than 30 years of research shows they save around 30 percent of lives and reduce head injuries and medical-care costs.

“I think one of the most important things we can do is require helmets,” said the expert on motorcycle- and moped-crash data and policy.

But some people disagree. The Helmet Law Defense League, founded in 1993, is interested in ending all helmet laws for motorcyclists. According to its website, helmet laws are a violation of riders’ rights.

Peek-Asa said she disagrees with the group because of the evidence showing how advantageous helmets are.

“One argument [against them] is just with the medical-care costs,” she said. “From a public standpoint, they’re beneficial. Furthermore, there is a very, very long precedent of government legislating safety on public roadways.”

UI senior Rachel Corcoran has rented from MopedU since March. The health-promotion major said she wears a helmet and believes they should be required.

“It’s just overall safety and precaution,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen … you’re kind of a target on a moped.”


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