A tragic accident in Midland, Texas, involving a mobility scooter and a vehicle, remains under investigation after an elderly man died from the injuries he sustained after he was struck by a vehicle, while he drove his mobility scooter.
70-year-old, Charles Corey, died on April 14, from the critical injuries he received when 20-year-old, Rupertino Reyes, hit the Midland resident with his white Ford Mustang. Corey was operating his mobility scooter on the sidewalk when Reyes, who was exiting a parking lot, collided with Corey. While it is unclear as to why or how the two men collided, authorities ruled out speed or alcohol as factors in the fatal crash.
According to law enforcement, Corey’s tragic death marks the 14th traffic-related death for Midland County, so far this year. While fatal traffic accidents are more common in heavier populated areas and fast-growing cities, like Midland’s population of over 100,000, smaller, less populated parts of the country are not immune to such tragedies.
Tragedy strikes a small, Northern Minnesota Community
78 year-old Army veteran, Husband, Father and Grandfather, Gene Zeroth, enjoyed the outdoors. His sense of adventure always encouraged taking the scenic route and he often spent his time in the “great outdoors”, hunting, fishing, or exploring on an all-terrain vehicle. On September 29, 2012, Zeroth may have been out enjoying the color change of leaves in rural Hibbing, Minnesota, when he was struck by a vehicle while riding his mobility scooter. 71 year-old, Lyle White, was driving his pickup over a hill, when he collided with Zeroth, who was allegedly making a U-turn on the road.
Although Zeroth’s decision to make a U-turn, without a clear view of oncoming traffic, was unsafe, MN state troopers believe that Zeroth may have lived had White decided to drive more responsibly. Troopers reported that White had been driving nearly 20 miles per hour over the posted speed of 45 mph and was intoxicated. White, who had been charged with a DUI in 1993, admitted to consuming several coffees with brandy, in the early morning hours proceeding the crash.
“There is a good chance that this crash would not have occurred,” an officer stressed, “had White been sober and traveling the speed limit.”
Seven months after the accident, White, a Husband, Grandfather, and outdoor enthusiast, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide. White, under a negotiated plea, faced jail time and supervised probation for 10 years. Nearly one year after his sentencing, White passed away at his home.
Looking Out For Scooters
Mobility scooter and vehicle accidents are preventable if motorists and scooter drivers pledge to be more aware of one another. While many argue that senior citizens should have no driving privileges of any kind (cars or scooters) beyond a certain age, young and old agree that all types of drivers need to pay closer attention to their surroundings and the flow of traffic.
While there are no official statistics reflecting mobility scooter deaths involving another vehicle, U.S. roadways are filling up with various modes of transportation, not just cars and trucks. Many motorists are swapping out their cars and trucks for a more fuel efficient or Eco-friendly option such as motorcycles, mopeds, or bicycles and fellow motorists need to remain on the look out; expecting to see a smaller vehicle sharing the road.
Mobility scooters are no different. While many elders or individuals with mobility issues, are no longer able or unable to drive a standard vehicle, a mobility scooter offers an independent, efficient, and relatively safe way to get around without relying on someone to “taxi” them from point A to point B.
Are Scooters Safe Enough to Be on the Roads?
Depending on where you live, you may be breaking the law if you drive your mobility scooter on the open road. In Louisiana, for example, gas or electric scooters with engines under 50cc cannot be legally driven on LA roads, as they do not meet the safety-equipment requirements for registration. Anyone driving a scooter on a public roadway (or even the shoulder) can be ticketed.
Mobility scooters, however, may be used on streets if there are no sidewalks available. Individuals, who operate mobility scooters, should not use bicycle lanes and should always and only cross a road at marked intersections or crosswalks. Before you consider purchasing a mobility scooter for yourself or for an elderly parent or friend, you should make sure you know the laws in your area. Another thing to consider, before purchasing a mobility scooter, is the ability and health of the individual. Just like any vehicle, it is vital that the driver of the scooter is able to navigate safely.
Individuals who have cognitive issues, such as poor memory and judgment, have poor vision or hearing, poor balance, or cannot operate the scooter with ease are not good mobility scooter candidates. As with any type of driver, an individual should be able to react quickly to any number of scenarios.
Safety Tips: A Good Read for Mobility Scooter Users and Vehicle Drivers
When sharing the road with a variety of motorists, it’s always wise to get a general idea of what is expected of them. For example, as a vehicle driver, it’s advantageous to get a good understanding of bicycle laws or motorcycle safety. Too often, motorists assume that they have the right of way in all situations. Get the facts before you make assumptions. Here are some safety tips for individuals who operate mobility scooters:
- Respect Traffic Laws: Operate the scooter as if you are pedestrian.
- Make Yourself Visible: Make eye contact with drivers so you know they are aware of your presence. Use lights, reflectors, and limit nighttime use.
- Practice Defensive Driving: Make sure everyone knows you are present (including motorists, cyclists, pedestrians). Never assume that others know your intentions.
- Extra Caution in Driveways: While most mobility scooters are safe on the sidewalks, it’s important to pay extra attention when crossing driveways. Too often, drivers are not expecting to see anyone crossing their paths as they back out of the driveway.
- Never Use Alcohol or Medications: Some medications are unsafe to use while behind the wheel, even if you don’t drive a car, these medications should be avoided when operating a scooter. Just like car drivers should abstain from alcohol while driving, mobility scooter users are no exception. Remember, alcohol clouds judgment and reaction time.
As our elder generation continues to live longer, healthier, and remains more independent, the mobility scooter is becoming more popular on our streets and in our neighborhoods. Before you pull out of a parking spot, back out of a driveway, drive down a quiet street, or turn at an intersection, look all around you. Check your mirrors, check your blind spot, and always look for individuals on a mobility scooter. The extra care you take each day could save a life.