Legislation before Senate to require titles, insurance and safety gear for mopeds and scooters

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.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. jp

    I drive a scooter. I do think legally requiring a helmet and registration is good. It saves lives, and registration would help me track down a stolen scooter. But that’s about all I support here.

    I choose to drive a scooter to avoid all the hassle of car ownership – taxes, tags, inspection, insurance, registration, driving tests, high cost of gas, and the list goes on.

    This law is now making the hassle of a scooter equal the hassle of a motorcycle, so I can only see people now getting motorcycles.

  2. Taxed To Death?

    I’ve read the comments that were posted by other readers. Most are against the new bill, and support the previous laws. A few are in support of the newly proposed legislation. The question, in my mind, is who will benefit most from the new bill? I’ve researched the “data” associated with scooter injuries, and there is little to speak of. Certainly nothing toward the magnitude of injuries associated with vehicles powered by engines exceeding 50cc in displacement. In fact, bicycles account for the majority of injuries incurred due to mishaps while operating vehicles powered by engines with less than 50cc of displacement.
    Assuming that logic is involved in the passing of new and modified legislation, it becomes clear that there is a greater need for mandatory registration, and insurance requirements for bicycles. This, of course, is the nature of such logic. If it makes sense in one perspective, it must make sense in all perspectives. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as it becomes obvious that a new bill to require tags, title, and insurance for all bicycles is simply absurd.
    I’ve also read one reader’s comment that regarded a bicycle’s inability to attain the speeds of a moped or scooter. …Poppycock.
    My neighbor is a long-time member of a cycling club. His bicycle can easily exceed 35 mph. Most bicycles can; at least on a downhill slope. Therefore, logic insists that bicycles should only be permitted to operate on level roadways, or uphill. However, downhill bicycle operation should only be permitted for those that are…tagged, registered, and insured.
    The bottom line is simple; the scooter bill does not actually serve the purpose for which it was created. Again, I must ask the question: Who does the new bill actually benefit?
    My thoughts are aligned with the other comments that regard tax revenue. Clearly, unemployment stats and spikes in the cost of living have contributed to the increase in scooter sales. The new bill, which would require titles, tags, registration, and insurance for scooters, also allows for the collection of taxes and various fees by the MVA. This is likely, in my opinion, to be the primary objective behind the new bill, as this revenue source has been declining, due to the faltering economy. Fewer new cars are being sold; more people are repairing older vehicles and driving them longer. This directly impacts revenue collected by the state, via the MVA. Used car sales are on the rise, for the same reasons stated above. No need for a calculator, when considering the difference between tagging a new, $30,000 car, or tagging a $3,000 car. Thus, when proceeding from a logical perspective (which unfortunately requires one to dispense with the “reasons” provided, which explain the “need” for the new legislation) it becomes more a matter of “following the money trail” than observing a widespread benefit for the general public. In this case, the money flows to the state of MD. Likewise, the “benefit trail” also leads to the state of MD.
    If the new bill were simply a matter of “squeezing additional money from the citizens of MD, it would be easier to accept, as we have become well accustomed to losing end of this type of bill. However, as the one MD State Representative stated, when voting in opposition to the bill, there are many people who, for economic reasons, have no other choice but to drive scooters to their places of employment, and to buy groceries and such. Clearly, the new bill does not benefit these people. In fact, it does not even recognize the existence of those who would not be financially able to pay nearly the cost of a new scooter in mandatory requirements, regarding MVA fees and insurance. These people, it would seem, may lose their jobs along with their ability to “scoot” to the grocery store.
    It also seems that the greatest market for new scooters is held by teens that are 16 years of age and older. Since the new bill will effectively double the cost of obtaining and operating a scooter in the state of MD, the list of people that will be unable to “foot the bill” imposed by the new legislation, is likely to grow rapidly. The obvious result of this “growing list” is a sharp reduction in new scooter sales. This obvious result will, no doubt, when approached logically, progress further, to put the majority of scooter retailers in financial distress; followed in time, by bankruptcy.
    In the wake of the “need for increased revenue” our MD lawmakers will realize (in retrospect) that a much larger source of tax revenue has been diminished, in the pursuit of a smaller source. No need to “imagine it happening”; all one has to do, is to look at the history of government taxation. This is how our government “works”. Next, as tax revenue declines further, that “rediculous” concept of requiring title, tags, registration, and insurance for bicycles, may look inviting to law makers….for the safety of the general public, of course. Sigh.

  3. Alex

    In the name of ________(fill in the propaganda). I think the state just wants more money from title and registration. I don’t think title fee is $20. Last time I check it cost $100 to title a vehicle in Maryland. Even my $220 trailer cost $100 to get a title then another 6% “title tax” on top of the sales tax i already paid(double taxation), then another $126 to get the tag….. do the math, by the time i get out of the MVA, I spend more there than actually cost of getting the trailer.

    I carry insurance for my 50cc as I do with my 150cc, and wear a Snell helmet because I choose to since there are many uninsured and crazy drivers out there. but once again, i choose to for my own protection, not because the government said so…. as lease not yet.

    The state don’t really like scooters, because, they are not really generating revenue. no title, no tag, tiny amount of gas tax. I am sure they want to change all that.

  4. Chris

    Mr Getty is right, i live nearby him, there a lot of scooters on nearby country small town roads where there is no need for all this taxation. i do think having a registration, say $20, and a $5 sticker is acceptable, but not to have to pay more then $5 every few years like car tags, insurance is iffy, while i do believe it would be a nice pillow to have, at a cheap rate, say $70 a year, you also have to have a license of some sort to drive a moped or scooter, or a moped license. this prevents younger inexperienced kids from abusing this rule. there is going to be some chaos as to who is enforcing new laws and who is letting things go. and holding insurance on a scooter without it technically being registered as of now? you would have to do both register and insure to do one alone.

    there is also another area of worry, as i want to do this myself. i want to purchase parts to build a 49cc honda ruckus scooter. but buy the frame and motor seperate in pieces as it is way cheaper, but eventually motor swap this out for a larger 150cc motor. there is no way for a cop, or anyone to know this is done by sight, unless you see a scooter buzzing by at 55mph. where do we draw the line?

    helmets are a no brainer, as having a 600cc crotch rocket before, i believe in some type of head protection and safety glasses minimum. even a skid lid should be ok for this scooter. i have a 25 mile commute to work total each day and this type of transportation would be ideal for me, as i drive in 25, 30, and up to 45mph zone on small country town roads.

    hopefully all these laws will stay in reason and allow law abiding citizens to use this means of transportation to their advantage as they were intended to. i do believe the current laws need to be upheld better, more integrity and respect from local cops, as local cops here will stop you for the most pathetic things, just curiousity will get you questioned. when i got my first car tagged, a 90′ hatchback, i drove it around my alley and made a circle back to my house and a cop pulled me over in my driveway because i had temp tags and i looked suspicious. i also live in a town where we have md troopers, sheriffs, as well as 3 or 4 different towns that are allowed to share areas because their shifts are too short to cover a full day in town. so every one of these local cops has an ego trip when they see something suspicious. making it harder for someone to try and have fun in their commute.

    life is about having fun, weather its on a 30mph scooter, or a $1,000,000 sports car, that should hinder no discrimination from the law, cops, regulations, or they way you are treated as a citizen and how you spend your money.

    -pic is of a modified 49cc honda scooter, running a 400cc turbo charged 4 stroke engine.

  5. CBC

    Ridiculous!!!!!!! I believe in a helmet and goggles but no need to take more money from us.Don’t you get enough taxes from us gas prices r really ridiculous that’s half of the reason why people take scooters to work so if this joke of a law passes way to stick it in us a little farther. Be4 u no it we will get taxed to go to the bathroom. What a joke keep ur nonsense in pa not are fault idiots in pa use them to run drugs keep ur idiot bill in pa n better yet keep ur non driving pa drivers out of Md

  6. Dyjen3

    You already have to have a valid drivers license or a moped permit which you have to take a test to get to drive on Maryland roads. You also have to follow the traffic laws its just the government trying to get more money and more regulation that just hurts the little guy. Just enforce the laws you already have.

  7. David Eaton

    Gee, why not require bicycles and skateboards be registered as well? What did you expect, instead of cutting spending and prioritizing those items that must be purchased, just raise taxes and create new taxes.

    • NSX

       probably because most people can’t reach the speed of 35 MPG with bicycles and skateboards and rarely chance it on busy roadways with speeds that high to be of concern.

  8. abby_adams

    Vehicles that share the road should share in the responsibility. Far too many of these scooters & mopeds are driven by kids who have little experience & even less good sense. Requiring operators some type of training & the purchase of liability insurance would help. Dealers will complain but why should auto drivers carry all the burden?

  9. stevenzbarton

    When is the right time to drop comprehensive and collision coverage on an old vehicle. The general rule is when the cost of comp and collision exceeds 10% of your old vehicle’s value, that’s the time to dump it and just have liability coverage. You can check your coverages using “Clearance Auto” online

  10. Dale Mcnamee

    If mopeds & scooters are on the roads, they should be treated like other motor vehicles.


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