Motorized Scooters

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has given the following legal position regarding the titling, registration, and driver's license requirements for a motorized scooter, similar to the "Phantom" and "Zappy" scooters and the "California Sports GoPed".  Having reviewed the applicable law, it is the Department's opinion that the use of motorized scooters on the highways of the Commonwealth is illegal and their use is clearly and inherently dangerous.  The applicability of several laws and regulations is explored below.

    Initially to be lawfully driven on a highway, a motorized scooter is required to be registered.  75 PA C.S. 1301.(a) provides "No persons shall drive or move and no owner or motor carrier shall knowingly permit to be driven or moved upon any highway any motor vehicle which is not registered in this Commonwealth, unless the vehicle is exempt from registration."   A motorized scooter is both a "vehicle" and a "motor vehicle" as defined by 75 PA C.S. 102.  Because a motorized scooter does not qualify for any of the exemptions enumerated under 75 PA C.S. 1302, a motorized scooter must be registered.  It should be noted that in order to register a vehicle, the Vehicle Code specifically requires that owner have applied for or have been issued a certificate of title.  See 75 PA C.S. 1101.(b) and 1301. (c).

    A motorized scooter is required by Section 4703.(a) of the Vehicle Code to be inspected and to display a currently valid certificate of inspection.  Additionally, a motorized scooter is required to comply with the equipment standards and inspection requirements for motor vehicles, as set forth in Chapters 41, 43 and 45 of the Vehicle Code and 67 PA Code Chapter 175.  However, motorized scooters do not comply with the equipment requirements in the Vehicle Code and the regulations.  Motorized Scooters lack the most basic safety features which are designed to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious personal injury or even fatality.  Unlike conventional motor vehicles, motorized scooters are unenclosed vehicles, which are constructed without a chassis.  Consequently, motorized scooters expose the operator to the risk of an immediate, unprotected impact with other motorized vehicles and pedestrians without the benefit of safety equipment such as bumpers, a windshield, front and sidewall protection, lights, a horn or seatbelts.

    The hazardous nature of motorized scooters has been recognized by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission's (CPSC).  The CPSC reported that in 1999, there were 1,330 emergency room treated injuries related to motorized scooters.  In 2000, the number of reported injuries associated with motorized scooters had climbed to 4,390.  In the first nine months of 2001, the last time the CPSC published injuries associated with motorized scooters, there were 2,870 injuries.

    If the motorized scooter is driven on a highway, the vehicle is required to be insured.  75 PA C.S. 1786 provides that "every motor vehicle of the type required to be registered under this title which is operated or currently registered shall be covered by financial responsibility."  Because a motorized scooter is a type required to be registered, it is required to be covered by financial responsibility if it is driven on a highway.

    In addition to the vehicle requiring a valid registration, inspection, equipment and insurance, any person who drives a motorized scooter on the highway or public property must possess a valid driver's license.  75 PA C.S. 1501.(a) states; "No person, except those expressly exempt, shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway or public property in this Commonwealth unless the person has a driver's license valid under the provisions of this chapter.  As used in this subsection, the term "public property" includes, but is not limited to, driveways and parking lots owned or leased by the Commonwealth, a political subdivision or an instrumentality of either."

    75 PA C.S. 1501.(a) as previously noted, a motor scooter is a motor vehicle, as defined by Section 102.  The exemptions from licensing set forth in 75 PA C.S. 1502 do not apply to people driving motorized scooters.  Therefore, in order to drive a motorized scooter on a highway or public property, any operator of a motorized scooter must possess a valid driver's license.  It should be noted that a highway includes: "The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for the purposes of vehicular travel.  The term includes roadway open to the use of the public for vehicular travel on grounds of a college or university or public or private school or public or historic park."

    Finally, the operation of a motorized scooter on the sidewalks in prohibited.  75 PA C.S. 3703.(a) "prohibits any person from driving any vehicle, unless human powered, on the sidewalk or sidewalk area.  The only exception to this prohibition is for a mobility device for a person with a mobility related disability or an electric personal assistive mobility device."

    For all the foregoing reasons, it is the opinion of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that the operation of a motorized scooter on a highway, roadway or sidewalk in this Commonwealth is currently unlawful and unsafe.  A persons operating such a vehicle is undoubtedly violating the registration, equipment, inspection and insurance laws.


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