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Gas prices fueling scooter craze

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – More Idahoans are turning to scooters – those motorized, fuel-efficient two-wheelers — to help ease the pinch of soaring gasoline prices.

The Idaho Department of Transportation reports that sales of motorized scooters increased 24 percent during the first quarter of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007.

With gas prices soaring above $4 per gallon, scooter dealers say it’s no surprise that more people are looking for cheaper alternatives to getting around town. Some of the models now being sold get between 75 and 100 miles per gallon.

“Lately we’ve got a lot of people who are just angry at the price of gas,” Casey Kasum, co-owner of Scooterville in Middleton, told the Idaho Press Tribune.

“And a lot of times scooters are something people have always wanted to have, but couldn’t. And now there is definitely a need,” she said.

But with more scooters on the road, state transportation officials are stressing the need for safety and education.

Pat Beale, with the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety, says the problem is many new scooter buyers aren’t accustomed to riding in heavy traffic, fail to wear proper safety gear or understand all the risks.

Unlike mopeds, which have pedals and travel at slower speeds, scooters are typically smaller, equipped with smaller wheels and an automatic clutch, Beale said.

Motor scooters also require registration, a license endorsement for operators and must display a U.S. Department of Transportation sticker certifying that they meet federal motor vehicle safety standards, Beale said.