Thursday, May 24, 2012

Letter to Scooter Riders

After hearing about this I thought I'd offer a little free legal advice to all you NC "scooter" riders out there.

Despite what the place you bought it from told you, that scooter you're riding just might be a motorcycle.

If so, not only is it supposed to be registered, with liability insurance, but you're also supposed to have a valid drivers license WITH a motorcycle endorsement (or at least a motorcycle learner's permit) to ride it.

First, let me be clear that I'm not saying that the man who was tragically killed in the article linked above was riding a scooter he thought was a motorcycle.  The article just got me to thinking about how many people are riding what they think are scooters/mopeds, but are really motorcycles under the law.  Although, even if what he was riding was a moped, and accidents do happen regardless of skill or training, training is never a bad thing and I advise all of you who are riding anything on two wheels that doesn't require you to pedal to make it move to get thyself to your closest Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Rider Course.  If you live in NC, your local community college probably offers it as a one weekend course for less than $100.

But getting back on track.  What I really want to talk about is how many people think they are riding what is defined in NC a moped, which does not require a license plate, liability insurance, or even a drivers license to ride on the road.

Commonly referred to as "liquor cycles" (pronounced licker sickles here in the south) they have historically been the preferred method of transportation for those without a drivers license for one reason or another.  Originally, they actually had pedals that you could use to propel yourself forward when you ran out of gas, or were just feeling energetic.  But over the past few years, particularly with the rise in gas prices, many people have purchased what are more frequently called "scooters" and are no longer self-propelling.

But here's where it gets tricky.  NC has no laws for scooters.  There are only mopeds and motorcycles under the law, and if it has less than 4 wheels, then unless it is a bicycle (having no engine at all), then it is one or the other of the two.

The definition of a moped is....

A vehicle that has two or three wheels, no external shifting device, and a motor that does not exceed 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement and cannot propel the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on a level surface.

See what I've pointed out order to be a moped the engine cannot be more than 50ccs AND it CANNOT BE CAPABLE of propelling the vehicle more than 30 mph.  
So if the dealer that sold you the scooter told you that you were o.k. without a license so long as you didn't actually ride it faster than 30 mph....THEY WERE WRONG!!!  Sorry to yell at you like that, but it really annoys me when people get the law wrong about things that are supposed to be part of their business.

Anyway, if your "scooter" is capable of going more than 30mph, then it's a motorcycle, and I'm not going to go through the list above again, but you need some stuff to be riding it legally.  I realize that there are a ton of these on the streets, and I have no idea what percentage are actually motorcycles instead of mopeds, but I'd be willing to bet it's well over 50% of the ones sold in the last 5 years.  

And no, law enforcement officers are not out there pulling over every scooter they see and trying to determine how fast it's capable of going to see if it's a moped or a motorcycle, they usually are out looking for the people doing blatantly wrong or unsafe things on the roads.

But with the increase in the numbers of these growing daily, don't say I didn't warn you.

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