Virginia Moped and Motorcycle Laws
Virgina has some very interesting and unusual laws in regards to scooters. First and foremost, please keep in mind that Virginia considers some scooters to be motorcycles, and some scooters to be mopeds. There is no legal qualification that simply covers all motorscooters. Therefore the first thing that you need to know is whether you plan on riding a moped or a motorcycle, and then figure out which class your scooter falls into.
Virginia Code section 46.2-100 defines a moped as a vehicle that:
- travels on three wheels or less,
- a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the ground to the middle of the seat, and
- has a gasoline, electric, or hybrid motor that displaces less than 50 cubic centimeters (or 50cc).
Operation of mopeds on any Interstate Highway System is prohibited by Virginia Law. Operation of mopeds on highways and public vehicular areas by persons under age 16 is prohibited by Virginia law.
No moped shall be driven on any highway or public vehicular area faster than 35 miles per hour. Operating a moped faster than 35 miles per hour is deemed by Virginia law to be operating a motorcycle, which requires you 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. Detailed information on Virginia’s traffic laws and regulations is available in the Virginia Driver’s Manual. 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.
All DUI laws apply to mopeds operated on public highways.
A moped cannot have more people on the vehicle than the manufacturer intended. Many mopeds and 49cc scooters are intended for only one person to ride on the vehicle. Most vintage mopeds are only intended for the driver. The Honda Metropolitan, Honda Ruckus, and most Chinese-built 49cc scooters are driver-only vehicles. However, the Genuine Buddy 50 , Genuine Roughhouse 50, Piaggio Fly 50, the Vespa S50 and the Vespa LX50 are capable of carrying two people, both in terms of allowable weight and in that the vehicle has a specific footrest area for the passenger.
In all of Virginia, you must wear a DOT approved helmet in order to ride a moped on a public roadway. In Richmond and all surrounding localities, you must also wear eye protection of some variety. Please note that this may not be the case in all Virginia localities. Check with your local law enforcement agencies for more information on your local specifics.
Please note that Richmond area police have been cracking down on folks attempting to skirt helmet and eye protection laws of late, as this has helped recover many stolen scooters and mopeds. The logic is that if you paid good money for your scooter, you are probably going to wear a proper helmet too. That means that wearing a skateboard helmet and no goggles/glasses makes you likely to get pulled over. This goes for all of those guys who perch a helmet on the top of their head vs actually wearing it correctly.
The motorcycle definition as per Virginia law explains that any vehicle with no more than 3 wheels in contact with the ground and has a top speed of more than 35mph is considered a motorcycle. This definition includes any 2 or 3 wheeled vehicle with an engine that is greater than 50 cubic centimeters.
If you have a 49cc moped that goes 50mph, what is that considered? That’s a good question. If you never ever drive faster than 35mph, then that vehicle can still be considered a moped. However, if you find yourself using that vehicle to travel faster than 35mph, then the vehicle is considered a motorcycle.
If the vehicle is defined as a motorcycle, you need a few extra things in order to legally drive it.
- Rider must have a valid motorcycle license, aka the M Class
- Vehicle must be titled and registered, which includes putting license plates on the vehicle
- Vehicle must be covered by insurance for at least the Virginia state minimum requirements
- Vehicle must have a yearly safety inspection
Sure, there are a few more things that are required of you before you ride a motorcycle…and all of them are completely worth it!
Similar to mopeds, you must wear a DOT approved helmet and eye protection when riding a motorcycle.
The best way to learn all of the specifics of motorcycle laws in Virginia is to peruse the VA Motorcycle Operator’s Handbook.