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Fewer Scooters, New Helmet Law Spur Drop in Citations, Police Officials Say

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By Jorge Casuso

August 27, 2019 -- The number of traffic tickets issued to e-scooter riders in Santa Monica has seen a dramatic drop over the past year due to fewer such vehicles on the streets and a major change to the state law, according to police.

There were 293 citations given to e-scooter riders this year from January 1 through July, down from 1,447 last year, according to data provided by the Santa Monica Police Department.

Scooter Safety Campaign

About two thirds of the total citations issued last year -- 985 -- were for riding without a helmet, which State law made optional on January 1 for scooter riders older than 18.

Only one citation was issued for riding without a helmet this year through July.

The overall drop in tickets is also the result of a pilot program launched by the City last September, police officials said ("Santa Monica Launches Pilot Program for Electric Scooters, Bikes," September 17, 2018).

The program limits the number of e-scooters rented in Santa Monica to 2,000 and sets guidelines for the operators.

Before the program kicked off, "it was like the wild wild west," said Lt. Candice Cobarrubias, the Police Department spokesperson.

"It seems like there was a ton of scooters out there," said Cobarrubias, who headed traffic enforcement at the time.

During a July 2018 crackdown on e-scooters Downtown that lasted two and a half hours, police issued 59 citations, 42 of them for riding without a helmet and 6 for riding on the sidewalk ("Santa Monica Police to Crack Down on Electric Scooters on Beach Bike Path," July 26, 2018).

This year, the vast majority of the citations issued -- 222 of the 293 -- were for riding a scooter on the sidewalks or on the beach bike path. A total of 473 such citations were issued for those violations last year.

After the pilot program was launched in September, police conducted an education campaign that focused on informing scooter riders of the traffic laws, rather than issuing citations, Cobarrubias said.

"In January we said, 'Enough, now we go into full enforcement mode,'" she said.

This year through July, 33 citations were issued for running a red light and 10 for running a stop sign, up from none for both categories last year.

Traffic officers also issued 8 citations for riding in tandem during the first six months of 2019, compared to 11 last year, and 3 for riding without a valid license, compared to 18 last year.

Last year, 14 riders were cited for driving outside the bike lanes. This year through July, no such tickets were issued, but there were 16 issued for "other violations."

In neighboring Los Angeles, where some 21,000 scooters are operating in the city, police issued 800 citations to riders between January of 2018 and mid-July, according to an August 22 report in the Los Angeles Times.

After officers began targeting riders on the sidewalks this summer, 249 citations were issued for the violation in June, according to the report.

Most of the citations analyzed by The Times were written in Downtown LA, Hollywood and the Westside, areas with high concentrations of scooters.

This year, Santa Monica became the first City given the go ahead by the California Office of Traffic Safety to use its grant money to include scooters in its enforcement operations ("Traffic Crackdown to Include E-Scooter Riders," May 10, 2019).

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