ON TWO WHEELS: Death and injury in Key West

ON TWO WHEELS: Death and injury in Key West

(Part I of a series)

Chances are positive a resident of Key West has either seen a moped, scooter or motorcycle accident … or been in one. During high season, sometimes Key West residents witness up to two a day. Whether it is watching a tourist topple from inexperience or a local weaving too fast on Roosevelt Boulevard, these accidents have become a lifestyle norm in Key West.

In order to accurately look at the statistics of moped, scooter and motorcycle accidents, defining each motorized vehicle is key. One of the ways to differentiate between the methods of transportation is speed:

  • A moped is a single-passenger two-wheeled motorized vehicle with a maximum speed of 31 mph, with engine displacement less than or equal to 50cc, and cannot been driven on a highway.
  • A scooter can fit up to two passengers with an engine displacement up to 250cc or higher and can average 60 mph.

Traffic studies, like those cited below, put mopeds in a category of their own, but group motorcycle and scooter statistics together.

According crash data compiled by the Key West Police Department, the numbers of moped/scooters accidents, not surprisingly, has been growing from 2014 to 2016. The numbers don’t lie: the total of Key West moped/motorcycle crashes in 2014 was 338, 2015 it was 382 and 2016 it has reached 257 which by estimates, should meet or exceed the past year’s numbers with four months left to go in the calendar year. According to the stats, 13 percent resulted in severe or fatal injury in 2014, in 2015 it rose to 20 percent, and in 2016 is already at 14 percent.

“We definitely see one serious injury, if not more, a week,” according to Dr. Eric Herrera, an emergency room doctor at Lower Keys Medical Center ER. “Now I won’t ride a moped or scooter because of what I’ve seen.”

Are accidents due to scooters themselves? Inexperienced drivers? Is there an increased chance of disobeying traffic laws because of riding a smaller vehicle? Is it that Key West’s traffic infrastructure does not support scooter safety? There is no clear answer.

Regardless, the appeal to tourists and residents hasn’t decreased. Motorized two-wheel transportation is cheap and easy to use. For tourists, they can rent by the hour, day, or week for less than $100 dollars with just a drivers license. For locals, it is fast method of transportation without the hassle of parking or buying insurance for mopeds or scooters that do not exceed 30 mph. A seemingly win-win for both groups, until they find themselves at hospital vacation ruined or their lives and livelihood at stake.

—   Statistics for this report were compiled from the Key West Police Department.

NEXT WEEK: Interview with Dr. Eric Herrera, LKMC ER and local accident victims.

“The KWPD urges scooter drivers to drive defensively. They are less visible than cars, and very vulnerable, even if the motorist is the one in the wrong. In addition, they must obey the rules of the road. That means no illegal moves like passing cars on the right or riding in a designated bike lane.” — Alyson Crean, public information officer of the Key West Police Department.

Download (TIFF, 3.59MB)

This map of common Key West crash sites was provided by Key West Police Department. Between 2014 and 2016, there have become increasing common areas for Moped/Scooter accidents. Downtown by lower Duval and the Historic Harbor saw the greatest number, but no surprise, the intersection of Palm Avenue Bridge and Roosevelt Boulevafrd and Upper North Roosevelt also are proven risk areas.


Moped/Scooter/Motorcycle Crash Statistics 2014-2016 Key West

Crash Summary 2014-2016

Crash resulting in fatalities 6

Number of incapacitating injuries 154

Number of moped crashes 54

Number of scooter/motorcycle crashes 923

Total vehicles involved 1,613

Total Number of Crashes by Month 2014-2016

January     95

February   73

March       115

April         97

May         96

June     105

July     93

August 78

September 48

October     66

November   52

December   59

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Part Two:

(This is part 2 of a series. Next week: crash prevention, a look at scooter and car drivers sharing the road.)

 On Two Wheels: Injuries are serious

 On March 3, 2003 Stuart Kemp, owner of 915 Restaurant, was struck on his Vespa at the intersection of Truman Avenue and Windsor Lane by an ambulance. His body was thrown against a cement wall, his face split in two (Le Fort maxilofacial trauma), he suffered vertebra injuries, losing one, and several of his teeth were later found embedded in the wall. Airlifted to Jackson Memorial, Kemp’s face was removed and rebuilt with titanium strips, bone grafts were placed in his jaw, and he spent six months in a neck/body cast. For one year, Kemp traveled to Miami every two weeks to undergo procedures, check ups and rehabilitation. His teeth took more than two years to heal. The crash resulted in a jury trial finding the ambulance negligible for running a red light without sirens or lights. It was only going 30 mph.

 This story may seem extreme but it happens more often than residents of Key West and the Florida Keys realize.

 “We just had a local couple, riding double who were struck by a car and both had to be airlifted. They suffered critical injuries and will most likely have a long recovery ahead,” said Sandy Rodriquez, director of nursing at Lower Keys Medical Center. She attributes minor injuries such as broken ankles and scrapes to tourists horsing around while the more critical injuries are often locals who drive late at night. In serious accidents, alcohol is often a factor.

Dr. Eric Herrera, an emergency room doctor at Lower Keys Medical Center, agrees. “Locals are more comfortable on the road and take more risks, like speeding, using alcohol, and swerving through traffic. Their accidents are fewer but more serious,” he said. On the other hand, Dr. Herrera noted, “Tourists’ inexperience causes more minor accidents because they may have never been on a scooter and aren’t familiar with our roads.” Dr. Herrera referenced a tourist who was testing a moped before renting it, accelerated into a wall and subsequently lost a kidney on his first day of vacation. He said all this happened before the victim had even signed the rental contract.

 At a minimum, the LKMC treats victims of scooter and moped crashes twice a week. Are there any solutions?

 “Ultimately, I would like to see more screening for experience from local rental companies, for all riders to wear helmets and more insurance laws for everyone,” said Dr. Herrera.

 I should have been dead. Personally, I will never ride a scooter again.” — Stuart Kemp, scooter accident victim, who admits he misses his Vespa for its convenience.

 

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