After watching one too many sad bastards who'd lost their licenses to a DUI come wandering into his scooter shop, Doug Vitello had a brilliant idea: What if he could sell them a low-speed bike that could get them to work or the probation office?
Thanks to a Chinese manufacturer and its scrappy two-wheelers, the Tampa Bay businessman's dream has become the "DUI Scooter." Yes, you can buy one, too! Just watch out for MADD, who are on the warpath to kill this flash of American ingenuity.
Riptide reached Vitello at his Tampa area shop this afternoon. He says he found the bikes, from a Chinese company called X-Treme Scooters, on the web after hearing several customers pleading for a way to get around after losing their licenses.
"We felt bad for these guys," he says. "A lot of them are upstanding folks with good jobs, and they couldn't make the bus schedule fit and their job was too far for a bicycle."
Enter the DUI Scooter: For $1,500 to $2,000, it can hit a solid 20 miles per hour. The moped-esque ride has pedals, too, but it can run on an electric motor for a few dozen miles at a time. Best of all: They're apparently totally street legal without a license.
According to Vitello, they're slow enough to fall under state and federal rules exempting "low-speed electric bicycles" from license laws.
Vitello says he's sold the bikes to customers all over Florida, including in Miami. Then, earlier this week, the St. Petersburg Times got wind of the idea and wrote a story.
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That's when Mothers Against Drunk Driving jumped into the fray. "Our concern with marketing a 'DUI scooter' is that it may seem to some as a loophole or a way to circumvent the penalties associated with a DUI conviction," the organization said in a statement.
Vitello says he's baffled by the controversy.
"I still can't believe the way they're spinning this. We're not encouraging drunk driving," he says. "This does not encourage any illegal activity. It's fulfilling a real need."
Want your own DUI Scooter? Check out Vitello's website, sunset-scooters.com.