Mopeds and scooters have become a popular means of transportation for some in College Park, and drivers now are preparing for a new state law that adds requirements to improve safety.
Beginning Oct. 1, all mopeds and scooters must be titled and insured to be driven, and all riders must wear a helmet and eye protection if there is not a windscreen on the vehicle. Drivers must also have a valid driver’s license or moped operator permit. Those without a title for the vehicle, which is signified by placing a decal on the back of mopeds and scooters, will be subject to a traffic stop and may be issued a traffic citation or warning.
Capt. Mark Limansky, a University of Maryland, College Park, spokesman, said the new law has the potential to save lives.
“[Scooters and mopeds] can go 30 mph, and if you have a collision and hit your head, that could be pretty severe,” Limansky said. “Any type of law change that promotes protection and safety of the public we would be in favor of.”
Limansky said UM departments have posted fliers around campus to notify moped and scooter drivers of the new law. The Motor Vehicle Administration defines a scooter or moped as a non-pedal vehicle on two wheels that has a motor with a rating of 2.7 brake horsepower or less or a 50cc engine or less and an automatic transmission.
According to Maryland State Police, so far this year there have been 242 moped-related traffic collisions. Last year, there were a total of 398 incidents, compared to 403 in 2010, 326 in 2009, and 252 in 2008.
Greg Shipley, an MSP spokesman, said state troopers are being trained on the new law so they are aware of the new requirement for drivers.
“It’s an area that’s increased significantly as far as vehicular travel that’s conducted on these vehicles,” Shipley said. “We’ve all seen a lot more scooters.”
Shipley said MSP is planning an awareness event Sept. 24 in College Park to promote the new law, and scooters will be on display to present the proper decal and requirements for operating the vehicles.
“A lot of them are used by high school and college people, and they need to be aware that there is a new law and that they have to invest in a new helmet and new title,” Shipley said.
College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows said he did not know how many College Park residents and UM students are using mopeds and scooters but said it appears to be a significant amount.
“This is a little bit of a transition. People are getting rid of cars and moving toward scooters and may transition toward things like bikes and walking,” he said, noting that he wants to see College Park viewed as a hiker- and biker-friendly community.
Fellows said the new law for helmet use is similar to the state’s seat belt law when driving other vehicles.
“With these kinds of safety laws, the intent is good and the effect is really good,” he said. “If we don’t have protection, injuries could be much worse.”
Buel Young, a spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, said for the first year the law is in place, those who had already been driving a scooter and moped will be exempt from the titling fee.
After October 1, 2013, the motor scooter and moped title fee will be $20 plus a sales tax of $19.20, Young said. Those obtaining a title will have to certify that they carry the minimum levels of liability insurance for their moped or scooter.
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