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Is it legal for a cop to give me a citation for going too slow on a moped?

Ken Little

A scooter travels down Carolina Beach Road on Monday, June 22, 2009. StarNews file photo.

Q. Is it legal for a cop to give me a reckless driving charge or even a citation for impeding traffic for going to slow on a 50cc moped? For instance, if the speed limit is posted 40 and I’m doing 20 mph still accelerating? Or if it is posted 55 and I’m doing 30 mph? I have been given two citations by two separate cops for these exact situations, and in less than two weeks apart from each other. I feel that they are just harassing mopeds and scooters.

A. Sgt. Mike Donelson of the Wilmington Police Department’s Traffic Unit said that any vehicle, moped or otherwise, traveling significantly below the speed limit, “is in effect impeding the flow of traffic and the driver may be cited.”

Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas, has said that driving 10 or 15 mph below the posted speed limit is legal unless otherwise noted. If a motorist’s sluggish speed is disrupting traffic, however, an officer may cite the driver for impeding traffic flow.

A motorist also can be cited for impeding traffic if he or she is traveling at the speed limit but traffic is flowing much faster, Crosby said.

That is a violation more commonly enforced. In 2009, for example, 29 drivers in New Hanover County were cited for impeding traffic by slow speed, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, which compiles data on charges and convictions for counties across the state.

But that same year, 2009, no one in Brunswick, New Hanover or Pender counties was charged with driving below the posted minimum speed, according to the AOC.

Another important point pertaining to mopeds is explained in the N.C. Drivers Handbook, said Lucy Crockett, spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department.

She said the handbook clearly states that “legally, a moped’s top speed cannot exceed 30 miles per hour.”

“According to this narrative, the driver who wrote to you may have been attempting to drive above the legal limit for mopeds,” Crockett said.

The handbook also contains some specific rules for mopeds that include keeping to the right in the lane, and staying out of traffic as much as possible.

Both are specifically referenced, Crockett said, and are “good suggestions for how to avoid impeding traffic.”

Here’s another point to consider:

Both a minimum and maximum speed of travel (speed limit) are often posted on interstates and highways. Strictly speaking, motorists are required to travel between the minimum and maximum speed.

But it’s common knowledge that some law enforcement officers give drivers a little leeway. The rule of thumb is up to 10 mph over the speed limit, but discretion is the key word here.

“It’s a judgment of the officer,” AAA’s Crosby said about writing tickets for impeding traffic.

“As an organization, we always advocate obeying the speed limit. But you have to be aware of those around you,” he said.


Why are so many scooters allowed to clog Wilmington’s roads?

Why aren’t moped drivers required to have insurance? Who pays if a moped is at fault in an accident?

User-contributed question by:
sean hartley

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