By Danielle Chazen
From the moment the University of Maryland selects a recruit to join one of its 27 athletic teams, its athletic staff devotes the necessary time, money and resources to ensure the athlete's health and growth as an individual. Yet, for a school which prides itself on its ability to develop and nurture strong, competitive athletes, it seems odd something as obvious and simple as campus helmet safety remains so controversial.
|(Photo by Danielle Chazen/PressBox)|
Each day on the College Park campus, countless student-athletes can be spotted zipping by on motor scooters -- usually sans helmets -- often with two or more stacked on one bike and drivers reaching well over the maximum 30 mph speed limit for scooters.
Last spring, women's lacrosse coach Cathy Reese became the first Maryland coach to require her athletes to wear helmets when riding scooters, despite no legal enforcement requiring students to do so. In light of Terp right tackle Pete DeSouza's severe scooter collision on campus Oct. 21, resulting in a season-ending injury of two broken legs and a 12-hour surgery to fix them, coaches of men's lacrosse, golf and field hockey have followed suit.
The University Senate voted Oct. 27 to charge the Campus Affairs Committee with evaluating the benefits of helmet enforcement on campus. The Senate could also vote on a policy change that would fine scooter drivers for riding without a helmet by the end of the academic year.
About 300 scooters are currently registered for use on campus, and athletes and students alike think while scooters are often convenient and essential, enforcements could be made to create stronger feelings of safety and prevent further chances of injury to both the university's prized athletes and pedestrians.
Lacrosse goalie Mary Jordan and lacrosse attackman Joe Cummings said scooters are necessary for athletes who need an easy way to commute back and forth from practices to classes, often on opposite sides of campus.
"With the parking issues on campus with cars, scooters are the best and most efficient way for athletes with demanding schedules to get places at certain times," Cummings said.
Jordan, who broke her arm her freshman year after falling off her scooter, said despite the convenience, scooter safety is a serious issue which should not be overlooked.
"At first I didn't think helmets were necessary, but not having a helmet and seeing now how much it has helped me and my teammates, I think it's a necessity," she said. "The university should make it a law that athletes wear them."
Jordan said many athletes act irresponsibly and become unaware of other cars when they drive scooters on campus.
"Some people with scooters just aren't smart and they pile more people on than allowed, but it all goes toward the personal judgment and responsibility of the individual," she said.
Jordan's teammate, junior attacker Kristy Black, said scooters alone cannot be blamed, but drivers who act irresponsibly are at fault.
Junior lacrosse goalie Brittany Dipper said coaches' decisions to enforce athletes' helmet use are definitely steps in the right direction.
"Especially with what happened to DeSouza, it's clear scooter safety needs to be taken more seriously," Dipper said. "It also takes more than just putting helmets on drivers. That doesn't mean you can't get seriously injured anyway. It's more about students following the rules of the road and driving like you would if you were in a car."
Many Maryland students are shocked football coach Ralph Friedgen, who leads a team riddled with injuries this season, has not chosen to enforce helmet use among his players, or taken a proactive role in raising awareness and speaking out on scooter safety.
Jordan said there is also a misconception among students on campus the university provides athletes with scooters, when, in fact, the athletes purchase them.
Senior entrepreneurship major Jordan Rosenbaum said, "Overall, I think it is ridiculous that it is illegal to drive a car, a vehicle where you are completely enclosed, without a seatbelt, but it is completely legal to drive scooters on campus completely exposed with no safety devices whatsoever."
Issue 155: November 2010