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Death Underscores Danger of Scooters

Hazard: A 6-year-old boy died after taking a fall on one of the motorized devices. Law and safety precautions are often ignored, officials say.

August 17, 2001|ANA BEATRIZ CHOLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The death of a 6-year-old San Juan Capistrano boy who apparently crashed while riding a motorized scooter is a tragic reminder that children may be ill-prepared to handle such devices, authorities said Thursday.

"There is a significant danger factor with these things," said Steve Doan, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "In the hands of someone that does not know how to drive one, it can be very dangerous."

A state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2000, prohibits children under 16 from using motorized vehicles and requires all riders to wear helmets. But many people are either unaware of the regulations or ignore them, Doan said.

"We are seeing a lot of kids under the age of 16" on motorized scooters, he said.

"It's a popular toy in south county. You have a pretty high income level, and you have a lot of people who can afford these. They are not toys, but you have a lot of people that look at them like toys."

Colton Siomkin died Wednesday of brain damage he sustained Aug. 9, Orange County coroner's officials said.

Investigators said the boy's family heard him crying and found him lying beside his scooter. Nobody witnessed his fall, so it is not clear what happened, authorities said. Colton was not wearing a helmet when he was found.

The boy's family would not comment Thursday.

Riders do not need licenses or insurance to use the motorized scooters, which look like skateboards with handlebars, sound like small lawn mowers and can cost as much as $1,000. State law prohibits riding them on sidewalks and limits their speed to 25 mph except in bike lanes. Go-ped, the largest North American manufacturer of motorized scooters, sold about 100,000 of them last year, company owner Steve Patmont said.

Retailers require buyers to sign a consent form stating that the scooter is not intended for use by children without adult supervision, he said.

Police say they have better success enforcing the law on city streets than in gated communities such as San Juan Hills Estates, where Colton Siomkin lived. The popularity of scooters, though, makes their job difficult.

Elliot Laurance, 15, of Newport Beach said he has been a Go-ped enthusiast since he was in fifth grade. His first scooter cost about $700. He now owns three of them.

He said police in his neighborhood are vigilant about enforcing the law and once wrote him a ticket and required him to attend bicycle safety school.

"The cops are really strict about it," he said. "They freak out."

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