Helsinki surgeons worried about dangers facing young moped riders
Moped licence does not offer much guarantee of riding skills
A moped is a dangerous vehicle - especially if it is in the hands of teens with too little understanding of their riding skills.
The allegation is based on the records compiled by the surgeons at the "Children’s Castle" Hospital and Töölö Hospital, both belonging to the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUCH). Over the past six years, these surgeons have treated 222 minors who have been involved in a moped or scooter accident.
”As a rule, an 18-year-old motorist is regarded as a risk, even though the number of 15-year-old moped riders is higher than that of young motorists”, says Silja Kosola, a researcher and hospital physician.
In the period from 2000 to 2007, the surgeons at Children’s Castle and Töölö Hospital kept a tally of all patients aged less than 16 years who were admitted to the hospitals following moped accidents.
According to the surgeons, the number of granted moped licences more than doubled over the monitoring period, while the number of patients involved in a moped accident rose more than fivefold.
”Teens typically engage in risk-taking behaviour. Many young people have no idea of how difficult it is for motorists to see moped riders in traffic. Nor are they able to estimate how long it takes to stop a car”, Kosola continues.
Girls constitute an increasing proportion of all moped accident patients taken to hospital emergency rooms. Their percentage grew from 7 % to 25 % during the monitoring period.
”Riding a moped has become a fad about which even girls are today more enthusiastic than some years ago”, Kosola says, trying to guess the reason for the phenomenon.
”A moped licence does not guarantee riding skills. A compulsory riding test would be good”, admits 15-year-old Rosa Ylitalo, whose moped flipped on its side on an icy bend in the road last winter, when she was riding with her sister. The sisters sustained bruises on their legs but nothing more serious.
A moped licence has been compulsory since the beginning of 2000, and giving a lift to a helmeted person has been allowed since 2005.
However, along with the growing numbers of patients also the number of serious injuries have been increasing.
In the monitoring period, the most common injuries were fractures of limbs as well as trauma to the intestines and head.
A total of eight patients had sustained extremely severe injuries, including unilateral paralysis, learning and concentration difficulties following a head trauma, and severe fractures.
”Some patients will never walk and run again in a normal way”, Kosola points out.
The surgeons regarded it as particularly alarming that at the time of accident 8% of riders were speeding, 5% were under the influence of alcohol, and one in six patients was under the age of 15. The youngest person injured in a moped accident was only 10 years old.
Most moped accidents of young people involve incidents when a moped is dropped on its side or collides with another motor vehicle.
When applying for a moped licence, one needs a written permit from his or her parents, a health certificate, and a theory test, but in Kosola’s view this is not enough.
”The instruction of traffic rules and a vehicle driving test should be compulsory”, Kosola argues.
15-year-old Petri Strömberg from Helsinki’s district of Kontula agrees. He got a moped a couple of weeks ago, finding particularly challenging some traffic signs and driving through intersections and roundabouts.
”A driving test would be good, but it should not be too expensive”, says Strömberg, before donning his helmet on and driving away.
Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUCH)