By Daniel Menefee

Mopeds and motor scooters may soon require titles filed with the Motor Vehicle Administration and their operators could be required to carry liability insurance.

motor scooter

Photo by Christopher John

Helmets and eye protection for riders on lower-powered mopeds and scooters, powered by less than 2.7 horsepower or under 49cc, could also become mandatory under the bill. If the bill passes, it would be similar to Maryland’s motorcycle laws. Scooters powered by more than 49cc are regulated as motorcycles.

The bill received preliminary approval to come for a floor vote on Tuesday. A final vote is expected later this week.

Update: The House version of the bill also passed the Environmental Matters Committee on Tuesday.

Sen. Joe Getty, R-Baltimore County, voted against the bill because it eliminates an “alternative mode of transportation for those people who need it the most.”

He said it was cost prohibitive to require $700 in titling and insurance for a $650 moped or scooter.

“I think it‘s counter-productive for people who are trying to find a more inexpensive way to get to work,” Getty said. “Scooters and mopeds in my community are generally used by people who can’t afford a car and they’re trying to get to work, or trying to get to the grocery store.”

New purchases of scooters and mopeds would require a title fee of $20 and $5 fee for a decal at the time of sale. Owners of older vehicles will have one year from July 1, 2013 to obtain the title and decal from MVA.

Current trends in gas prices have increased the demand for mopeds and scooters, but motor safety advocates are concerned about the increased integration of low powered scooters and mopeds on Maryland roads, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Chris Shank, R-Washington, co-sponsored the bill because of numerous reports from the Hagerstown Police about a spike in use of scooters and mopeds to transport illegal drugs. Shank sponsored the amendment that requires scooter and moped operators to carry liability insurance because he said it has been difficult for injured parties to be compensated when a scooter or moped causes a crash.

Transportation Trust Fund revenues from the proposed new title requirement have not yet been determined by the Department of Legislative Services.

The bill would reclassify mopeds and scooters as “S” class vehicles under MVA regulations and maintains the requirement for moped and scooter operators to possess a valid Maryland driver’s license.

The Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund and MVA support the bill.

If the bill passes, the Department for Legislative Services estimates that 20% of all scooters and mopeds would remain untitled. About a fifth of moped owners are not currently eligible to hold a valid Maryland driver’s license, the analysis states.

Legislative Services analysts also said that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could see a reduction in costs to treat debilitating injuries from scooter accidents. Treatment for Medicaid recipients with traumatic brain injuries can cost up to $120,000 annually.

Fines of up to $500 would apply for not wearing headgear and eye protection, similar to the state’s motorcycle laws.