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

Ken Little

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

Q. Why are so many scooters allowed to clog Wilmington’s roads if the majority of the scooters are supposed to be tagged with N.C. motorcycle plates in the first place? N.C. law requires scooters to be registered if the exceed 49cc (motor size); however most manufacturers have been able to produce scooters with higher power using less displacement. Will NC ever look at redefining the law to give these dangerous vehicles a maximum speed limit before having to be registered with a N.C. license plate?

A. “Your reader is basically correct,” said Margaret Howell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

 Howell forwarded the following information:

According to the N.C General Statutes, Chapter 105-164.3, the following is the definition of a moped:

“Moped – A vehicle that has two or three wheels, no external shifting device, and a motor that does not exceed 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement and cannot propel the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on a level surface.”

“Scooters” are not defined in the state statutes. “Only mopeds and motorcycles are defined,” Howell said.

If a two-wheeled vehicle has a larger engine displacement “and/or travels faster than 30 mph, it must be registered and carry a motorcycle plate,” she said.

“Additionally, neither a driver license nor a motorcycle endorsement is required to drive a moped. The issue of whether these vehicles are or are not cited is a law enforcement issue determined by the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction,” Howell said.


Can someone get arrested for drunken driving while on a scooter? How about a bicycle?

Why are mopeds, which are limited by N.C. DMV to 30 mph, allowed on roads that carry higher speed limits?

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

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4 Responses to “ Why are so many scooters allowed to clog Wilmington’s roads?”

  1. On April 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm James wrote:

    “Clog the roads?” I drive all over Wilmington everyday and while I often see scooters, I have never encountered them clogging the roads. Being an occasional hazard, yes, but never clogging the roads. I think your argument is misguided. Yes, they should be registered, but that will not take them off the road

  2. On April 29, 2012 at 11:35 am DC wrote:

    If it has a motor, a driver’s license and insurance should be required. These are commonly referred to as drunk bikes or liquor cycles. The majority of the riders have lost their licenses for DWI. 30 mph is a joke. I have been passed by one on Military Cutoff when I was doing 45 mph. Clearly they are able to override the mph restrictions. They are frequently in the passing lane and impede the flow of traffic in all lanes traveling in the same direction. They frequently cause the legal vehicles to swerve to clear them, only to pass them again on the right at the next light. If you hit one, your insurance will have to pay since they do not have any. Ban them now!

  3. On April 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm Jay wrote:

    Why are so many cars allowed to clog Wilmington’s roads? Bicycles and scooters are much more energy efficient than single-occupant automobiles and SUVs. We should be encouraging their use, not complaining about it. Especially since the majority of trips in urban areas are less than three miles.

  4. On May 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm Mark wrote:

    Think it important to first recognize that this is a bit of a loaded and rhetorical question. The author first loads the question with an unsubstantiated and subjective claim that scooters “clog” the road and are “dangerous”. I believe I can speak with a fairly decent sense of certainty that the number of scooters on the road has little affect on traffic flow. The occasional slowed pace that occurs when passing a moving scooter is no less prohibitive than that which occurs each time a bicyclist is found on a main road or an overly patient driver, which is much more frequent.

    There is a insinuation that the mere presence of scooters on the road brings with it a added danger to the general motorist and that the legislature should take additional measure to decrease this danger by decreasing the motorists rights to be there in the first place.

    As stated above, the presence of bicyclist on the road ads no less danger to an individual operating a car than a scooter. The only operational difference is the lack of speed that a bicyclist can gain relative to a scooter. The implied differential in speeds would in fact present a greater danger for a bicyclist than a scooter. The only advantage a bicyclist would be the numerous bike paths that the government has added to our local streets. If one premise behind the question is rooted in “clogged” traffic causing implied danger than perhaps the path of least resistance if any would be to permit scooters on the bike paths. This would of course never happen.

    As an fully licensed operator of a car, a truck, and scooter, and bicycle I have experienced the road on all four. There is one thing that I have found that I believe may have bearing on this question.

    1. Countless oversized trucks operate in Wilmington. They take up exponentially more space than any other vehicle and present a greater danger to any smaller vehicle on the road as their field of vision is reduced.

    2. Standard size cars are operated by all sorts, and never to an equal degree of skill. Some drive well below the speed limit, slowing up traffic, and some cut in and out of traffic as if they were on a race track. This certainly poses a greater danger to other drivers than a scooter and thus a greater rate of accidents. In fact you may contact any insurance company and ask for some statistics on which types of vehicle cause more accidents. I believe that would be mid-sized sports cars. More accidents = more more danger. More accidents= “clogged” traffic.

    3. Bicyclists seldom maintain a speed even close to that of the flow of traffic. They have no blinkers, no rear view mirrors, and are often difficult to see especially in periods of reduced vision such as at night or in the rain. Some adhere to the rules of the road but it is my experience that many do not. The one advantage that they do receive over scooters is a greater deal of respect and caution from passing vehicles, and this leads me to what I believe is the root of the above question.

    4. A motor scooter operator take up less lane than a truck, they operate with less speed and aggression than a car, and have more standard safety features than bicycles. yet Scooter operators not only receive significantly less respect from other drivers but often a sense of disdain and contempt. I dare to suggest the author of this question may posses at the very least a slight sense of one of these.

    The some of population views their presence on the road as a nuisance. I personally believe this may be rooted in the perception that every scootor operator is an unlicensed DUI recipient, but the reason is irrelevant. If only a few alter their driving habits due to this perception, it may be the real source of the implied danger.

    I have found myself nearly run off the road countless times, honked at, even cursed at for no apparent reason. I operate at or above the average pace of traffic and yet it does not fail that the vehicle behind me must find away to pass me by, in my lane. This does not occur when I am riding my bicycle to work. I travel the same road to work and travel at the same speed and no vehicle ever attempts to pass by my car or truck at acceleration rates.

    None of this has anything to do with there being plates on my scooter, nor the fact that I have a valid driver’s license. I can’t help but hypothesis that perhaps some level of mass education might be a faster and more efficient route towards disabling the sort of unsubstantiated disdain the author of this question has towards scooters on the road, and thus creating a safer and less clogged traveling experience for all of us.

    I have had personal conversation with may scooter operators. Many of them, such as myself, operate them because it provides outstanding gas mileage and a comfortable and fun ride. One of the reasons motorcycles are so popular. Most of us would just assume have tags and insurance but the law prohibits it. I must point out again that failure to possess tags does not increase the implied danger of any vehicle.

    The remaining, less fortunate segment, of scooter operations are those who may have received DUIs or simply cannot afford a car. Believe me after speaking with some of them, for these folks riding a scooter to work in hot or cold is no consolation to operating a motor vehicle at their convenience. I pray that they can someday get back on their feet and find the jobs they seek to someday afford the luxury of a real car, but more importantly for the gained respect of their fellow drivers.

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