Motor Scooter Riders Raise Questions About Eye-Protection Law

Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK — A new law requiring motor scooter and moped users to wear helmets and eye protection has riders confused as to what should be shielding their eyes.

According to the law, riders who do not have a windscreen on their scooter or moped must have either a visor on their helmet or some other type of eye protection.

Buel Young, a spokesman for Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, said the department adopts the federal standards set forth by the Food and Drug Administration for eye-protection devices.

The FDA standard says “eyeglasses and sunglasses must be fitted with impact-resistant lenses,” but it’s not always clear whether particular eyewear qualifies under the FDA’s detailed impact test.

This means “nearly everything that is out there” in terms of eye protection would count under the law, Young said. However, he emphasized riders should look on their eye-protective devices for a mark of approval by the FDA.

Marc Limansky, a spokesman for the University of Maryland Police Department in College Park, said when it comes to enforcement, his unit does not take an all-encompassing view. The university has more than 400 scooters registered with its transportation department.

“I wouldn’t go that far, to say anything covering your eyes would count,” said Limansky, who used the example of the type of small, round, glasses the late Beatles singer John Lennon wore as something his department would question.

It is up to officers to use their own discretion, Limansky said, when it comes to handing out violations regarding eye protection.

“Generally, people aren’t going to be stopped just for if they have the wrong glasses on,” said Limansky. The department, he said, is in an educational phase and only issuing citations to repeat offenders.

Jordan Daniels, a sophomore criminology major at the University of Maryland, said that unlike the cut-and-dried helmet aspect of the law, when it comes to eye protection he is unsure what he is allowed to wear.

“There’s no specifics of what kind of eye protection you have to wear. Like they don’t say you have to wear a certain type of goggles or you have to wear specific glasses,” said Daniels.

Daniels also said that riding at night is a problem under the new law. He said it is too difficult to see at night with sunglasses on, and so he often goes without eye protection.

Peter Berger, a junior double major in finance and physiology/neurobiology, agrees with Daniels that it is difficult to see, but still wears his tinted visor at night for fear of being pulled over. Berger said he has already been stopped in a parking garage for not having his visor down, but only received a warning.

“I think it’s less safe to wear a tinted visor at night, than to wear no visor at all,” he said. “I have considered not doing it, because it’s hard to see like potholes or people, but I mean I don’t want to get pulled over.”

Sgt. Marc Black, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, notes that the law is still in effect at night, and riders should use common sense.

“They may not be in violation of the new scooter law, but it may not be the safest thing for them to wear sunglasses at night,” said Black.

Michael Levy, the public affairs officer for the Ocean City Police Department, where a helmet law has been in effect for over a year for rented scooters, agreed with Black when it comes to wearing tinted glasses at night.

“There is a common sense element that is very hard to enforce,” said Levy.

In Ocean City, Levy said an officer would probably stop and question someone wearing sunglasses at night, but it would depend on the situation whether they would be issued a citation.

Levy also sent out a warning to those heading to Ocean City who plan to ride or rent a moped or scooter.

“Here in Ocean City, you better have insurance, you better wear a helmet, and you better make sure you have eye protection.”