Booming scooter sales call for driver education

The in basket: When Steve Stewart of the state Department of Licensing called me the other day to seek my help in letting the growing number of scooter and motorcycle owners know what they must do to be legal, I was reminded of an old inquiry to the Road Warrior from Jerry Maurer of North Kitsap.
“My wife acquired a 49cc scooter not too long ago,” he wrote in July 2006. “Our understanding of the
legality of this scooter is that it is considered a moped and no motorcycle license is required.
“(But) we are confused as to where she can drive on Viking Way heading north into Poulsbo.

She was
riding to the right of the fog line (white line on the right-hand side of the road). That area is designated a bicycle route. We understand that bicycle trails are off-limits to all motorized vehicles, including mopeds.
“But are bike routes the same as bike trails?”
“She has quit driving it altogether because she was stopped by the police and told to drive to the left
of the white line, in traffic. The speed limit is 40 mph and her scooter only goes 25 on a good day, downhill, with a wind on her back.”
The out basket: Steve at DOL said this is just one of the confusions that arise as people react to $4 gas by getting motorcycles or scooters for the first time.
“Scooter sales are off the charts” he said, “and people don’t understand that some of them require motorcycle endorsements. Those that don’t should know it’s a risky endeavor in that it is the same as riding any other motorcycle.”
Their small size just worsens the problem motorcyclists have making sure they can be seen by drivers of cars. Plus scooters often are traveling slower than other traffic. “Distracted drivers can completely miss that you are there, especially in an urban environment,” Steve said.
Since you have to ride in traffic, “pick visible clothing and otherwise cause your vehicle to be visible,” he advised. “Don’t wear black.”
Flashing headlights, sometimes called modulating headlights, are legal in all 50 states, and can be added to your scooter or motorcycle for about $75, he said.
As for Mrs. Maurer’s experience, “Bicycle lanes are specifically for bikes and motorized vehicles can’t use them,” he said.
Scooters with an engine larger than 50 ccs OR that can reach 30 miles per hour need a license and their drivers need a motorcycle endorsement, he said. Scooters that are smaller or slower still require a basic drivers license if you’re riding on the public roads, and the driver must wear a helmet.
A DOL office can provide you with a motorcycle endorsement after you have passed written and riding tests.
Or you can take an approved motorcycle training school class. If you pass, you can skip both DOL tests. But the training classes will run you between $150 and $250. The cheaper class is the same as the more costly one, but it’s subsidized through the state motorcycle safety fund and requires a longer wait to get into a class.
Not having an endorsement while riding a motorcycle or scooter that requires one carries a $124 fine and you can have your vehicle impounded.
There’s a lot more information on a site DOL has set up online at www.endorseyoursport.com.

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