Some Maryland motorists are in for a change. A new law requires the operators of mopeds and motor scooters to obtain vehicle titles, wear a helmet and eye protection, and show proof of insurance.
Spearheaded in part by state Sen. Chris Shank, the bill was a response to complaints from motorists who thought scooter and moped riders should be insured just like everyone else on the road.
“I had constituents telling me, ‘I just don’t think this is fair,’” Shank told Maryland’s Herald Mail newspaper. “They said they should be treated the same. ... Even if you were involved in an accident and the other person was at fault, you wouldn’t be covered. The only recourse would be to sue someone.”
Maryland joins 15 other states in requiring insurance for mopeds or scooters:
- New Jersey.
- New York.
- North Dakota.
“I think these types of laws requiring insurance make a lot of sense,” says Craig Miller, a personal injury attorney in Maryland. “We’re seeing a lot more mopeds and scooters on the roads these days, and forcing people to have coverage is actually doing them a service.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), fatal accidents involving mopeds rose from 48 in 2005 to 96 in 2009. The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 17 states now require moped operators to be licensed.
The law in Maryland
According to Maryland officials, a moped is defined as a bicycle operated by human power – with the assistance of a motor – that’s equipped with pedals that mechanically drive the wheels. It also has a motor with a rating of 1.5 brake horsepower or less (or if a combustion engine, 50cc or less), has two or three wheels more than 14 inches in diameter, and is not allowed to be operated at more than 30 miles per hour on public roads and highways.
A motor scooter is defined as a “non-pedal vehicle” that isn’t manufactured for off-road use and has the following:
- A seat for the operator.
- Two wheels (with one at least 10 inches in diameter).
- A step-through chassis (frame).
- A motor with a rating of 2.7 brake horsepower or less (or if a combustion engine, 50cc or less).
- An automatic transmission.
According to the Maryland law, moped and motor scooter owners must maintain liability insurance and uninsured motorists insurance. State law requires policy limits of $30,000 for injury per person, $60,000 for injury per accident, and $15,000 for property damage for both liability and uninsured motorists coverage.
Miller says the primary concern for Maryland motorists was that too many uninsured mopeds and motor scooters weren’t getting reimbursed for crash damage. Furthermore, if a moped rider isn’t carrying uninsured motorist coverage and gets hit by a driver who isn’t insured, he or she may not be able to recover any money for damage or injury.
“The only thing you can do in these situations is to sue in court,” Miller says. “These vehicles may be small, but they are often traveling at speeds equal to cars, and that can cause some significant damage, both to the moped or scooter rider as well as other cars.”
Cost of coverage
The cost of obtaining insurance for your moped or motor scooter varies greatly, State Farm spokeswoman Amy Preddy says. As with cars, insurers like State Farm look at such factors as driving history when pricing coverage.
Kevin Lynch, assistant professor of insurance at The American College in Pennsylvania, says insurers determine a moped or scooter insurance premium the same way they do for motorcycles, which includes taking into account a driver’s experience as well as the size of the engine.
“On the plus side, the engines on these things are typically much smaller, which means insurance will be cheaper than a car or even a larger motorcycle,” Lynch says. “The downside is that the vast majority of people using this type of transportation will tend to be young and inexperienced.”
In Maryland, for instance, Miller says a teenage male can expect to pay between $500 and $600 a year to insure a new moped or scooter. A more experienced rider with at least 10 years of moped or scooter ownership under his belt likely would pay $150 to $200.
“The collision coverage side of things is going to be cheaper than a car because it’s cheaper to replace a scooter or moped,” Miller says. “But the liability cost is what drives the premium, because riders will generally suffer more injuries than someone in a car.”
Lynch advises consumers to shop around for moped and scooter coverage.
“If you get three quotes for moped insurance at $700, $750 and $1,200 per year, it’s pretty clear which of those isn’t really interested in your business,” Lynch says.