South Abington Township Police Department

                                                                                                                              

Motor Scooters & "Pocket Bikes" Illegal to Operate on Public Property

 

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has reviewed the applicable law, and formed the opinion that the use of unregistered motor scooters on the highways of this Commonwealth is illegal and their use is clearly and inherently dangerous. The applicability of several laws are explored below.

    Motor scooters are motor vehicles manufactured under a multitude of models and configurations. Typically, a motor scooter is a two tandem-wheeled (one in front of the other) vehicle that is powered by an engine (usually gasoline) or an electric motor and may or may not have a seat or saddle for the driver. Motor scooters include small motor cycles, mini-bikes, "pocket bikes" and "pocket rockets" as well as motorized standing scooters.

    Initially, to be lawfully driven on a highway, a motor scooter is required to be registered. Section 1301 of the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. 1301(a), provides: "No person shall drive or move and no owner or motor carrier shall knowingly permit to be driven or moved upon any highway any vehicle which is not registered in this Commonwealth, unless the vehicle is exempt from registration." A motor scooter is both a "vehicle" and a "motor vehicle" as defined by 75 Pa.C.S. 102. Because a motor scooter does not qualify for any of the exemptions enumerated under 75Pa.C.S. 1302, a motor scooter must be registered to be legally operated on the roadways of the Commonwealth.

    A motor scooter is required by Section 4703(a) of the Vehicle Code to be inspected and to display a currently valid certificate of inspection. Additionally, a motor scooter is required to comply with the equipment standards and inspection requirements for motor vehicles; as set forth in Chapters 41, 43, and 45 of the Vehicle Code and 67 Pa. Code Chapter 175. However, many motor scooters do not comply with the equipment requirements. Many scooters lack the most basic safety features which are designed to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious personal injury or even fatality. Unlike a conventional motor vehicle, motor scooters are unenclosed vehicles,  which are constructed without a chassis. Consequently, many motor scooters expose the operator to the risk of an immediate, unprotected impact with other motor vehicles and pedestrians without the benefit of safety equipment such as fenders, turn signals, a muffler, lights or tires suitable for highway use. Additionally, many motor scooters have poor visibility due to the lack of proper safety equipment and their diminutive size.

    If the motor scooter is driven on a highway, it must be insured. Section 1786 of the Vehicle Code, 75Pa.C.S. 1786, provides that "every motor vehicle of the type required to be registered under this title which is operated or currently registered shall be covered by financial responsibility." Because a motor scooter is a vehicle of a type required to be registered, it is required to be covered by financial responsibility if it is driven on a highway.

    In addition to the registration, inspection, equipment and insurance requirements, any person who drives a motor scooter on the highway or public property must possess a valid driver's license 75 Pa.C.S. 1501(a) states:

 

                                    No person, except this expressly exempted, shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway or public property in  this Commonwealth unless the person has a driver's license valid under the provisions of this chapter. As used in this subsection, the term "public property" includes, but it not limited to, driveways and parking lots owned or leased by the Commonwealth, a political subdivision or an instrumentality of either.

 

        75 Pa.C.S. 1501(a). As previously noted, a motor scooter is a motor vehicle, as defined by Section 102. The exemptions from licensing set forth in 75Pa.C.S. 1502 do not apply to people driving motor scooters. Therefore, in order to drive a motor scooter on a highway or public property, any operator of a motor scooter must possess a valid driver's license. It should be noted that a highway includes: "The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. The term includes a roadway open to the use of the public for vehicular travel on grounds of a college or university o public or private school or public school or historic park." Many motor scooters are ridden on the roads in this Commonwealth by minors or others who lack driver's licenses. Such operation is prohibited by Section 1501 of the Vehicle Code.

    The Department has received inquiries regarding whether it matteredf an electric motor rather than a gasoline engine powered the motor scooter. The answer is NO. Electric vehicles and gasoline powered vehicles have the same registration, inspection, insurance and driver licensing requirements. It has also been suggested that motor scooters are not regulated because their engines or motors are less than five brake horsepower. That is not correct. There is no such exemption from the regulation for vehicles merely because they are powered by a less than five horsepower engine or motor.

    The Department has also received many complaints that motor scooters are being operated on sidewalks. Such operation is clearly prohibited by the Vehicle Code. Section 3703(a) of the Vehicle Code, 75Pa.C.S. 3703(a), prohibits any person from driving any vehicles, unless human powered, on the sidewalk or sidewalk area. The only exception to this prohibition is for an electric mobility device for a person with a mobility related disability or an electric assistive mobility device. In short, the operation of a motor scooter on the sidewalk is prohibited.

    For all the foregoing reasons, it is the opinion of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that the operation of a motor scooter on a highway, roadway, or sidewalk in this Commonwealth is currently unlawful and unsafe. A person operating such a vehicle is undoubtedly violating the registration, equipment, inspection and insurance laws.

    It should be noted that there are motor scooters which are manufactured for highway use. These motor scooters have a certification label on the motor scooter certifying that the motor scooter meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. These vehicles will have a 17 digit vehicle identification number (VIN) affixed by the manufacturer and must be transferred to a purchaser using either a manufacturer's certificate or origin of title. These motor scooters conform to federal and state vehicle equipment requirements and standards and, when properly registered, inspected, and insured, may be operated on the highway by licenses drivers.

 

    Should you have any further questions please contact Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Vehicle & Traffic Law Division.

CONTACT: Anthony Haubert  (717) 787-0485   

 

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Posted 12/13/04

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