County Commissioners Toughen Up Scooter Ordinance

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - Bay County commissioners are taking steps to strengthen regulations on scooter and moped rental businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

They say they made the changes in response to a number of crashes involving the rental vehicles. Commissioners hope the changes will increase safety.

Bay County commissioners say they're making changes to the county's scooter rental ordinance because of the increasing number of crashes during spring break this year and last year.

"Some of these people, the first time they've ever been on a vehicle is at that traffic light we've got out there and that's terribly dangerous and it creates quite a problem," said Mike Thomas, a Bay County commissioner.

"I'm also seeing two small vehicles against two large vehicles. One of them is going to lose and we know which one loses," said one Lynn Haven resident.

The new additions to the ordinance will require businesses to issue renters safety helmets free of charge, and requires renters to wear them.

The changes also requires the rental businesses to carry a $1,000,000 liability insurance policy and they have to undergo annual vehicle inspections.

Commissioners stopped short of making it tougher for people to actually rent the scooters.

"I would like to see people who don't personally own the scooter, if it's a rental vehicle, i would like to see them have to have a motorcycle endorsement like anybody else that rides, but the state doesn't require that," said Thomas.

The ordinance also warns businesses against renting to people who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

"People aren't using them as a mode of transportation. They're using them as an amusement and when you put that much amusement on a highway, you have a problem," said Thomas.

Business owners say they're already following most, if not all, of the new requirements commissioners passed Tuesday.