Martha’s Vineyard takes on a distinct atmosphere of fun in the summer months. Visitors drive, roll, or walk off the ferry in vacation mode, and embrace the Island and all it has to offer. But as those on the front lines — police, firefighters, medical first responders — understand all too well, a warm summer day provides no immunity from injury or tragedy.
Islanders were understandably shocked, distressed, and outraged to learn of the injuries two 19-year-old New Hampshire women, both promising athletes, suffered after colliding with a dump truck in a horrific moped accident Saturday afternoon on Barnes Road.
The moped operator, Noelle Lambert of Manchester, N.H., severed her leg at the scene. Her passenger, Kelly Moran of Newfields, N.H., sustained serious leg injuries.
Police said Ms. Lambert went onto the shoulder of the road, overcorrected, and lost control near the entrance to the Vineyard Youth Tennis Center.
Shocked Islanders have begun speaking about resurrecting a previously unsuccessful campaign to ban mopeds on the Island. There is little reason to think state lawmakers would accede to a Vineyard request to ban a mode of transportation others find to be convenient and economical.
Islanders have taken to social media to criticize moped business owners as unscrupulous. That is unfair. The law allows for the rental of mopeds just as it allows for the rental of autos, motorcycles, bicycles, and kayaks, each with its own inherent risks of injury.
Islanders ought not throw their hands up. It is more realistic to seek to persuade lawmakers to require moped operators to hold a motorcycle license; or to prohibit anyone without a motorcycle operator’s license from carrying a passenger.
The state prohibits motorcycle permit holders from carrying a passenger, but allows the most inexperienced moped operator to carry a passenger, significantly adding to the handling challenges of a moped.
At the very least, the brief safety course moped rental companies now provide could be improved. However, ultimately it comes down to individual judgment — moped customers must understand the risks.
Narrow Vineyard roads are congested in the summer months. Add distracted automobile drivers, bicyclists who may or may not remain on the bike paths, walkers, and mopeds ridden by inexperienced operators, and there are more than enough ingredients for an accident to occur.
There is one more ingredient — drivers who operate on our roadways without regard to the law.
On Friday, Edson Luduvino DeOliveira Jr. of Vineyard Haven caused a three-vehicle collision on West Tisbury Road in Edgartown when he rear-ended a GMC Yukon occupied by a family visiting from Harvard. The impact drove that vehicle into a third car, a Prius, operated by a young Island girl accompanied by her mother.
Edgartown Police cited Mr. Deoliveira for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. It was the fifth citation he had received in the past five months, and his sixth in the past three years, according to police records.
In one instance, Mr. Deoliveira was arrested twice in a seven-hour span for driving without a license. Island police officers are understandably frustrated. What is the point, they ask, of taking the time to arrest, process, and adjudicate driving without a license — tying up the police, the jail, and the courts — when the disposition is a relatively modest fine?
Based on his past behavior, Mr. Deoliveira may be expected to keep thumbing his nose at the police until the court imposes stiffer penalties.
If there is one constant we may find reassuring in the news of these two recent accidents, and in any number of emergencies on Island roadways, it is the dedication and response of the Island’s police, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. Time and again they are called out to respond to emergencies, some minor and others far more serious.
Oak Bluffs Fire and EMS Chief John Rose, one of the first to respond to the accident scene Saturday, said, “It was extremely difficult.”
Chief Rose praised the skill and professionalism of the first responders who “held themselves together” in a very difficult emergency situation.
Not everyone on Martha’s Vineyard this month is on vacation.
Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Obama
On Saturday, Martha’s Vineyard will welcome President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It will be the seventh year in the past eight that the Obamas, who have their choice of desirable vacations spots, will spend their summer vacation on our Island — that is no small compliment.
They will share the Vineyard with other families who are attracted to the same vacation activities the Obamas enjoy while here — dinners with friends, the beach, reading, hikes, and bike rides, and in the case of the president, lots of golf. Some Islanders may grouse at the congestion that August brings, but the truth is that there is a tendency to complain about summer visitors because it provides a break from complaining about each other; life will return to a more measured pace soon enough.