As we become ever more sensitive to miles per gallon, scooter sales have hit the roof. Mini dealerships seem to be everywhere, and the scooters themselves are all around congested cities.
Similarly, Mopeds and Go Peds are getting more use than ever before.
Of course, careless motorists are making u-turns in front of them, cutting them off by making left hand turns in front of them, and changing lanes into them.
Naturally, many of these riders are calling me for help.
One question that arises repeatedly is whether or not these vehicles are considered “motor vehicles” in California.
This is important, because of California’s Proposition 213. For several years, it has been the law that an owner driving a vehicle must have insurance on the car involved in an accident. If they don’t have insurance, they cannot get “non-economic” damages, primarily pain and suffering damages. Of course, this makes a huge difference.
In 1985, in a case called Farmer’s Insurance Exchange v. Galvin, California’s First District Court of Appeal held that a Moped is not a motor vehicle. Subsequently, the Vehicle Code was changed to distinguish between pedal driven motorized vehicles that can go over 30 mph, and those that cannot. The slower vehicles are not considered motor vehicles, can be operated by anyone over 16, and can use bike paths. The faster vehicles are treated as any other motor vehicle.
Scooters without seats, such as Go Peds, are also not considered motor vehicles, and the rules are similar.
Vespa type scooters are considered motor vehicles, and all the rules apply.
The DMV classifications are: A motorcycle is 150cc or more and is defined in Vehicle Code Section 400. A “motor driven cycle” is 149 cc or less, and includes small motorcycles and scooters as defined in Vehicle Code Section 405. Motorized bicycles, or Mopeds, can be fully driven using pedals, or if no pedals, electric powered under Vehicle Code 406(s)406(b). A motorized scooter, or Go Ped, is designed with a floorboard for standing under Vehicle Code Section 407.5.
Hopefully, this will help clarify the issue. As always, ride safely.