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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Police: Drivers should be watchful for mopeds on roads
Thursday, September 6, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
More mopeds are being seen along area highways, and local law enforcement advise other motorists to take caution.
Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers has noticed an increase in moped use on the highway recently. He believes the increase is “a reflection of the economy” because mopeds are cheaper to purchase and operate due to fuel efficiency, Rogers said.
Mopeds are typically considered any two-wheeled vehicle that travels 35 miles per hour or less.
Rogers’ biggest concerns with mopeds being allowed on the highway is that it’s hard for other motorists to see them, especially at night, he said. Mopeds are required to have a working headlight and tail light, but they usually are not as bright as regular vehicle lights, Rogers said. He added that he discourages the use of mopeds at night due for that reason.
If another motorist is not fully alert or is distracted, a driver may not see the moped until he/she has fully approached it, Rogers said.
Mopeds travel at a slower speed than regular traffic and do not get up to speed as quickly eithe. As a result, “it creates a traffic hazard” and other motorists should be mindful of people on mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles, Rogers said.
Henry County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Walker agreed that other motorists should “watch out for them (moped operators),” he said. “Give them the same right of way” that a motorist would give to motorcycles, bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles, he added.
Walker also advised that moped operators obey all traffic laws and be responsible when operating, he said.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website, statewide in 2009:
• Seven moped drivers were killed, or 0.9 percent of all traffic fatalities.
• 312 moped riders were injured (291 drivers, 21 passengers), or 0.5 percent of all traffic injuries.
• There were 330 moped crashes, or 0.3 percent of all crashes.
There are certain moped restrictions that are listed in the Virginia Code. They are as follows:
• Operation of mopeds on any Interstate Highway System is prohibited by Virginia law, as is the operation of mopeds on highways and public vehicular areas by persons under age 16.
• No moped shall be driven on any highway or public vehicular area faster than 35 miles per hour. Doing so is considered to be operating a motorcycle under Virginia law, which requires the owner to title and register the moped as a motorcycle and obtain a motorcycle license.
• Moped riders must carry some form of identification that includes name, address and date of birth.
• Although you do not need a driver’s license to operate a moped, you may not operate a moped if you have been declared a habitual offender or your license is suspended or revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Moped drivers are required to abide by the same traffic laws and regulations as automobile drivers.
• All DUI laws apply to mopeds operated on public highways.
Virginia Code defines a moped as a vehicle that:
• Travels on three wheels or less.
• Has a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the ground to the middle of the seat.
• Has a gasoline, electric or hybrid motor that displaces less than 50 cubic centimeters.
In addition, certain local governments may impose restrictions on moped operation. Violations of the moped laws are considered a traffic infraction, and convictions will appear on your driving record, according to the Virginia Code.
The county has not adopted any specific ordinances for moped use, not even one requiring a helmet to be worn on a moped, according to Walker.
The city has several ordinances pertaining to moped use, according to the city’s website. A few include:
• Any person who operates a moped on a public street or highway must wear a face shield, safety glasses or goggles of a type approved by the superintendent of the Virginia State Police, or have the moped equipped with safety glass or a windshield. Passengers are required to wear protective gear as well.
• No person shall operate a moped upon any sidewalk or cross a roadway on a crosswalk, whether paved or unpaved; no person shall operate or ride a moped upon any property owned by the Martinsville City Schools; and no person shall operate or ride a moped on park property owned by the city.
• If an operator is under the age of 18, the moped must be registered.
Other ordinances can be found in the code section of the city’s website.