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The Basics of Moped Laws and Safety

On an intersection outside of a coffee stand, a driver parked his moped and queued up to the end of the line when a woman, who had just received her morning beverage, scaled her SUV into the driver’s seat and proceeded to back up over the moped. The incident had little effect on the SUV, much less on the attention of its driver. In fact, the moped driver himself wouldn’t realize what had happened until he had paid for his drink. The point of that tale isn’t that caffeine is a catalyst for disproportionate vehicle violence, but rather that things are tough out there for a moped. Even in unassuming situations, they’re lower profile than most other vehicles on the road, and thus more prone to accidents. Because of this, it’s a good idea to be aware of the best practices in moped safety.

The definition of a motor scooter or a moped varies from state to state. Some states define a moped as a limited use motorcycle with a low speed and two or three wheels. Most states classify the vehicle depending on power output or maximum speedó for instance, the state of California defines a moped or a motorized bicycle as a two or three wheeled device that is capable of a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on level ground. Some states list approved moped models for legal operation under that state’s definition of a moped.


Because the laws and definitions for moped operation vary between states, you should ensure you’re legally permitted to ride your vehicle beforehand. Some states also prohibit mopeds from carrying passengers, even if they’re a two-seater vehicle, so be sure to check your state’s regulations before promising any rides.

Your state may require a motor scooter or a moped to be registered and the operator to have a class M license, in which case you would have to pass a written exam, a skills test, and if the rider is under the state required age, complete a basic rider education course. If the state requires the vehicle to operate under a class M license, the operator must also follow the state laws for safe motorcycle operation. Regardless of vehicle classification, obeying all traffic laws is necessary to better ensure your safety. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to determine the definition, laws and necessary registration for a moped or motorized scooter.

Safe Attire and Visibility

Wearing a helmet is a good practice to avoid injury in the case of an accident, and is sometimes required by law. In addition, shield your body: wear jeans, a jacket, and closed-toed shoes instead of shorts or sandals to protect your skin in the event of a fall. Eye protection is necessary as well. While a moped may not travel as fast as other vehicles, the debris that other vehicles may turn up poses a risk.

The main threat is your lack of visibility. Outfit your vehicle with reflectors and wearing brighter colors while riding, and use your turn signals or hand signals to alert other drivers. The more visible you are, the less likely you’ll be run over.