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How Safe Are Motor Scooters in California?

Motor scooters first came on the market in the 1900s and they have since gained immense popularity.  The most common brand of motor scooter is the Vespa. The Vespa was designed in Europe after WWII as an easier means to get around since many streets were impassible because they had been destroyed during the war. This new form of transportation allowed Europeans to move around again and aided in rebuilding cities.

In California, motor scooter use is the most evident in large cities like Los Angeles and San Diego. They are used with higher frequency in populated areas to avoid parking issues and help alleviate traffic woes.

However, like motorcycles, motor scooters are prone to crashes and accidents. This is mostly due to their smaller size, lower speeds, and the inability of other drivers to see them. There are precautions an operator can take to ensure that they are driving safely and that they arrive at their destination without harm.

What is a Motor Scooter?

A motor scooter is a two-wheeled vehicle that has a footrest platform and a step-through frame. Unlike many motorcycles, they are designed for only one rider. The motor size for a scooter is small and usually between 50cc and 250cc. They are generally run by electric charging and they operate on 10-inch wheels. Motor scooters are beneficial because they are easier to maneuver in large cities and smaller spaces.

Motor scooters are sometimes confused with mopeds. However, mopeds are less used in America, are smaller, have less powerful engines, and operate at a slower speed. In California, motor scooters are defined as either motorcycles or motor-driven cycles, depending on the engine size.  

To be classified as a motorcycle, the engine size must be 150cc or greater. If a motor scooter meets this classification, it needs to be registered at the local DMV as a motorcycle. The driver also needs to obtain an M1 motorcycle license.

If the motor scooter has an engine size of 149cc or less, it is classified as a motor-driven cycle. The majority of motor scooters will fit into this category and can usually only reach speeds of 30 mph or less. Motor-driven cycles also need to be registered with the local DMV and the driver must obtain an M1 motorcycle license.

Common Motor Scooter Accidents

Many motor scooter accidents are similar to those that are commonly seen with motorcycles. These are usually attributed to either operator error or other drivers not seeing the motor scooter. 

Aggressive Drivers: Motor scooters operate at a lower speed, which can exacerbate the possibility of a collision because other drivers want to go faster. The other drivers may act erratically to get around or cut off the driver of the motor scooter. A car could also easily sideswipe the motor scooter if they are trying to get around them to make a turn or go faster.

Rear-End Crashes: Rear-end collisions are also a big threat to motor scooter drivers. This is because the scooter is smaller and harder to see. A car may not be able to brake fast enough when approaching a scooter that is at a stoplight or waiting to make a turn. Additionally, a car may over or underestimate the distance between the car and motor scooter, which could also cause an accident.

Loss of Control: Finally, another common motor scooter accident is losing control of the vehicle. Because the scooters are smaller and can maneuver in reduced spaces, an untrained driver can easily lose control and crash or fall over. They could also tumble off the vehicle if they take a turn too quickly or stop abruptly.

California Motor Scooter Safety

If the scooter qualifies as a motorcycle, it can be driven on the highway. If it qualifies as a motor-driven cycle, it cannot be operated on a freeway or highway if there are explicit signs that forbid their use on that particular road. Like motorcycles, motor scooters cannot be driven on bike lanes. Smaller vehicles like electric scooters can use bike lanes if they meet certain California regulations.

Regardless of the engine size, in California, any person operating a motorcycle or a motor-driven cycle must wear a Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet during operation of the vehicle. Basic safety tips can also help keep drivers safe and sound including:

  • Do not drive or take precautions when driving in rainy, windy, or snowy weather
  • Travel on lightly crowded or local roads, rather than large highways
  • Wear brightly colored clothing to make sure other drivers can always see you, and
  • Follow all road rules and never drive without a helmet.

If you could find yourself in a motor scooter accident in California, don’t hesitate to call an attorney for help. You could be entitled to compensation if someone else is at least partly to blame.

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