Until recently, legislation regarding mopeds was scant, an area of law mostly ignored by lawmakers. An increase in fatal accidents involving mopeds, however, is currently sparking increased efforts to pass legislation.
While the definition of a moped varies from state to state, one thing is consistent: Motor vehicle accidents involving mopeds have increased across the nation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatalities from moped accidents in the U.S. doubled from 48 in 2005 to 96 in 2009. This number has lawmakers concerned.
The problem seen with mopeds on the highway is that they drive too fast to be passed easily, but too slow to keep up with highway traffic. Additionally, there seems to be an almost complete lack of regulation of moped drivers. Unlike cars or motorcycles, only 17 states require a driver’s license to operate a moped, and some states also do not require moped riders to wear a helmet
According to Anne Tiegen of the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least a dozen states have proposed legislation or passed laws regarding mopeds in response to the increase in accidents and fatalities. North Carolina has a bill pending that would require driver’s licenses for mopeds, and bills to require helmets are being considered in Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland and Washington.
Missouri is one of the states that has some rules in place for moped and motorized scooter operators. The Missouri State Highway Patrol warns parents that while motorized bikes are sometimes marketed as toys, all traffic rules must be adhered to when one is driven on a public street or highway, including possession of a valid driver’s license. The Highway Patrol also suggests that while parents may not see a problem with their children driving mopeds, the vehicles are difficult to see and offer no crash protection for small bodies.
Hopefully, with an increase in moped legislation, the number of fatal accidents involving moped riders will be reduced in the future.