If you own or use a motorized scooter in the state of California, it is important that you know the rules and laws so that you are driving it properly.
Recently, some of the laws changed and it actually makes operating a scooter easier than before.
This is only for the state of California. So, if you are moving or live in a different state, please check their exact laws.
What is a motorized scooter?
In the state of California, a motorized scooter is a type of vehicle that has the following specifications:
- A motor that powers the vehicle
- A floorboard that you can stand on while riding
- Two wheels
It does not have to have a seat to be considered a motorized scooter, but it can without changing the definition.
Do I need a class M-2 license?
This is one of the laws that recently changed. You no longer need a class M-2 license to operate a motorized scooter.
M-2 licenses used to be a requirement for bicycles, mopeds, or any bicycle with a motor. Even though an M-2 license is not required, you still need a regular driver’s license issued by the DMV.
Your scooter does not need to be registered with the DMV or have license plates as a motorcycle does.
Where can I ride the motorized scooter?
There are some places where scooters can and cannot be ridden. The fines for riding them in illegal places are pretty hefty, so always follow the rules as much as you can.
- Motorized scooters are only allowed on roads where the speed limit is 25 or less.
- If there is a bike lane, you can use the bike lane on roads where the speed limit is greater than 25.
- They cannot be on sidewalks under any circumstances. The police in most cities are very strict about this.
- They cannot be driven faster than 15 miles per hour on the road.
Keep in mind that these rules apply to standard motorized scooters only. If you have a mobility scooter, you can drive up to 30 miles per hour. Mobility scooters are usually issued for seniors and others with physical disabilities. So, most people own standard motorized scooters.
Also, remember that passengers are not allowed on scooters and this rule is not changing. Only the driver is allowed to be on the scooter.
Do I have to wear a helmet?
California used to require helmets that were compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is no longer a rule. Adults riding scooters on any street or bike path no longer have to wear helmets.
The no helmet rule only applies to adults 18 years and older. If you are younger than 18 and have a valid driver’s license you can drive a motorized scooter but only with a helmet on.
Even though wearing a helmet is up to the discretion of adults, the state of California still strongly recommends people of all ages to wear a helmet. This is especially important on busy roads and at night.
Have the laws changed for mopeds?
You might be confused as to whether you own a moped or a motorized scooter and the difference is important. Moped rules for California are different and you could face a fine or trouble if you are following the wrong rules.
A moped is considered to have the following characteristics:
- Two or three wheels (four wheels are for cars or off-road vehicles)
- An electric motor and automatic transmission.
- They can have pedals but don’t need to.
- The maximum speed is under 30 miles per hour.
The maximum speed is often the defining requirement when it comes to deciding whether your mode of transportation is a moped or a motorized scooter.
If you consider your device a moped but it doesn’t go over 20 miles per hour, the DMV will most likely consider it a motorized scooter. This also applies to the other way around.
If you have determined that your transportation is a moped, you will need:
- An M1 or M2 motorcycle license
- A helmet at all times no matter your age
- A DMV registration
- A license plate
Mopeds generally follow more of the requirements that a motorcycle needs, while motorized scooters are treated more like bicycles. However, moped registration is a one-time requirement that does not need to be renewed every year like a motorcycle.
Why did the laws change?
Many states do not require a license for motorized scooters. Most states also do not require helmets if the person is over the age of 18. However, some states make the person be 21 to choose not to wear a helmet.
California has now made it easier for someone to ride and use a motorized scooter because they no longer need a special license. Remember that the driver’s license requirement has not changed though. Make sure to keep your driver’s license up to date and carry it with you every time you ride your scooter.
Do I need insurance?
Motorized scooters do not require insurance, so you do not need to obtain or pay for it. There is insurance for motorized scooters though, so you can choose to have it if you want it.
Mopeds do need insurance, so this is another reason why knowing which one you own is crucially important.
If you are thinking of getting a motorized scooter, now is the time to do it. The new laws make it much easier to ride because you don’t need an M2 license or a helmet. Make sure you know whether you are buying a moped or a motorized scooter though as the requirements are different.
Make sure to also follow the road rules and don’t ride your motorized scooter on sidewalks. Pay attention to the speed limit and ride in the bike lane when you are on a faster road. Motorized scooters are a great way to get around and are cheaper than cars.