TAMPA — With only the faint glow of business signs, nearby subdivisions and a small headlight to guide her way, a young woman mounted a small electric scooter late Christmas night and slowly traveled through Town 'N Country on Sheldon Road.
It was the last ride 20-year-old Isabel Alarcon Mateus would ever make, and one shrouded by confusion over where such a vehicle can be driven in Florida. The recent Alonso High School graduate died after she was rear-ended by a car whose driver couldn't see her Razor scooter in the darkness.
Mateus was southbound in the inside lane of the four-lane divided thoroughfare when she was struck by a 2003 Pontiac Vibe driven by 47-year-old Brian Edward Joyner about 11:30 p.m.
The impact ejected Mateus from the scooter near the intersection of W Hamilton Avenue, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The scooter was then struck by a second car.
Mateus was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where she later died, deputies said.
Deputies don't believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.
They pointed instead to the unsuitability of the scooter for a public road.
It didn't have rear lights and didn't meet the criteria outlined by the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to be defined as a legal motor vehicle, deputies said.
The Sheriff's Office did not identify the type of Razor scooter Mateus was driving. Photos from the scene show what appears to be a Razor Pocket Mod, a sort of hybrid between an electric scooter and a moped with a flip-up seat that covers a storage compartment. Unlike mopeds, there are no pedals.
The scooters, which advertise top speeds of 15 mph, are marketed to young teens and sell for $200 and up at stores such as Sears, Target and Walmart.
The speed limit on Sheldon Road is 45 mph.
You Tube videos show teens riding the Pocket Mod scooter on walkways and roads, but the fine print warns, "Shot on private estate. Product not suitable for public roads."
John Cochrane, attorney for Razor USA LLC, said the company is always careful to show its products being used appropriately in advertisements.
"Ultimately, though, it's a question of supervision and making smart decisions based on where you are," he said.
The packaging for the Pocket Mod, as well as other Razor scooters, includes warnings that the products should not be ridden in street traffic or in poor visibility. Drivers are advised to observe local and state laws.
"The Pocket Mod is meant to be used only in controlled environments free of potential traffic hazards and not on public streets or sidewalks," the instruction manual for the scooter says. "Do not ride your Pocket Mod in any areas where pedestrian traffic is present."
Mateus was charged earlier this year with driving without a license. A court record said she never had a Florida driver's license, a requirement for operating similar motorized vehicles in the road, such as mopeds.
In 2016 alone, the Tampa Bay Times has reported on five other scooter drivers in the Tampa Bay area who died in a crash with another motor vehicle while riding on a public road. They were on an array of scooters, including a mobility scooter and a Honda Elite.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.