Mopeds, Vespas, and 49cc scooters fill the streets of Florida. These vehicles offer a more convenient, eco-friendly means of transportation for one or two, and can be a lot of fun. However, whether you plan to take a much-needed drive on vacation, or you plan to use your moped, motorcycle, or Vespa to travel the streets of Florida for business and to meet your daily needs, you want to make sure you follow the law. This post explains:
When do you need a motorcycle license?
The Quick Answer
Do you need a license to drive a moped? Yes. According to Florida law, you need to carry a Class E license, or a motorcycle-only license, to operate a moped on Florida roads. You must, therefore, have reached at least 16 years of age to drive a moped legally.
While a moped may seem very different than a motorcycle, particularly since a moped cannot usually exceed 30 miles per hour, you need a license for both. Obtaining a license establishes that you understand the unique experience of operating a small motor vehicle that you understand the rules of the road designed to keep such motorists safe.
When operating a moped on Florida streets, you must follow the same rules and regulations that you would ordinarily follow when operating any motor vehicle. You may need to follow additional regulations or safety precautions, including keeping your vehicle out of the way of larger, faster-moving vehicles and yielding to larger vehicles when needed. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in a ticket, the same as if you violated those rules in a standard-sized motor vehicle.
Do You Have to Have a License To Drive a 49cc Scooter in Florida?
A 49cc scooter is considered a moped in Florida, and thus falls under the same basic restrictions as any other motorized vehicle in Florida. Florida law does not have specific regulations that pertain to motorized scooters. Consequently, all motorized scooters, including 49cc scooters, fall under the same category as a motorcycle. You must carry a motorcycle license and have reached at least 16 years old before driving a 49cc scooter on Florida roads.
Do You Need a Driver’s License to Drive a Vespa?
Operating a Vespa, like other types of scooters, in Florida requires you to hold a motorcycle license.
Laws and Regulations Applicable to Scooter, Vespa, and Moped Drivers in Florida
To drive your scooter, moped, or Vespa safely on Florida streets, you want to ensure that you are familiar with applicable laws. You should carefully review the Florida Motorcycle Manual as you prepare to get your license through the DMV so that you know what requirements you must meet. Carefully reviewing this manual will help prepare you for your test and ensure that you know the laws that will keep you and others safe on the road. Below is a summary of some of the most important laws and safety considerations to keep in mind.
1. Make sure any passenger under the age of 16 wears a helmet (and invest in one yourself, even if over 16).
Florida does not require motorcycle riders over the age of 21 to wear a helmet, so long as they carry insurance providing at least $10,000 for medical benefits in the event of an accident. You do not legally have to wear a helmet to ride a scooter or moped; however, you will need to carry minimum medical insurance, and passengers under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet.
Whether or not you are legally required to do so, you should wear a helmet when operating a moped, scooter, or any other small vehicle. Wearing a helmet considerably decreases the risk of traumatic brain injury in the event of an accident. While you may still suffer an injury to your head or face, wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of such an injury.
2. You must register your moped to ride it on city streets in Florida.
Under Florida law, you must have a valid registration and a license plate to legally operate your moped on city streets. Registration is inexpensive and you need it in case of an accident. You will need to update your moped registration annually, just like you would for any other vehicle.
By contrast, you generally do not have to register or title motorized scooters—defined as a vehicle without a seat or saddle for the rider and not capable of traveling faster than 30 miles per hour—with the state.
3. Do not drive motorized scooters on city streets.
Florida does not allow a motorized scooter, defined as a vehicle that does not have a saddle or seat for the rider, on city streets. Instead, keep those vehicles on sidewalks, if allowed by local ordinance, and parks. While operating motorized scooters on city sidewalks, watch for pedestrians and bike riders. Yield to foot traffic when necessary, and keep your rate of speed reasonable for the area.
4. Maintain the speed limit.
Since most mopeds cannot exceed 30 miles per hour, adhering to the speed limit on most Florida streets shouldn’t be a problem. In some areas, however, including school zones or tight, winding roads, you may need to drop your speed.
5. Adhere to traffic signs and signals.
It may be tempting to ignore traffic signs and signals while traveling on your moped. For example, at a slower rate of speed, you may think you have plenty of time to look across an intersection and make sure the coast is clear of other vehicles without heeding a stop sign or red light. But motorcycle and other small vehicle drivers must heed traffic signs and signals the same as other drivers.
Failing to might not end in an accident, but it could result in an inconvenient citation. Furthermore, even on seemingly empty roads, following traffic signs and signals is in the best interest of your safety; you never know when another vehicle may seemingly come out of nowhere. As exposed as you are on a motorcycle or other small vehicle, extra caution is warranted.
6. Stay in your lane.
Motorcycle and moped users sometimes feel that they can save time on the road by “lane splitting.” Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle or moped driver creates their own lane, usually by traveling between two lanes of traffic or by driving on the outside edge of a lane. Motorcycle and moped drivers may feel tempted to lane split during traffic jams and skip the line by slipping their smaller vehicles between cars.
Florida law states that motorcycles and mopeds have the right to occupy their entire lane and do not have to make space for larger vehicles, but prohibits motorcycle drivers from splitting lanes. You have the right to take up the whole lane, but do not have the right to make your own lane or to take up space that another vehicle is occupying. Lane splitting creates a high risk of accidents, and drivers should take care to avoid that risk.
7. Consider insuring your moped.
Florida law generally does not require you to carry insurance on a moped. But it is a good idea to carry adequate insurance to protect yourself. A moped accident may not cause significant damage to another vehicle and create a significant monetary liability for you, since mopeds travel at a slower rate of speed and have less mass than most other vehicles on the road. Rather, you as the moped driver may face substantial injuries in an accident.
Carrying moped insurance can offer these protections:
- Insurance can help replace or repair your moped after an accident. If you use your moped as one of your primary means of transportation, you may find it particularly problematic to lose its use for a long time. Moped insurance can cover repairs. If you cause an accident due to your negligence or distraction, you may use moped insurance to help cover your costs and the cost of covering the other driver’s medical bills or vehicle repairs.
- Moped insurance can protect you if the other party does not carry insurance or does not carry adequate insurance. Florida has the highest rate of uninsured motorists, with more than a quarter of Florida drivers not carrying insurance. If an uninsured motorist hits you, you may need to sue to recover compensation for injuries and property damage. But the other motorist might not have the money to pay a judgment, leaving you with no other recourse. Carrying your own insurance will ensure you avoid a situation where there is no way to foot the bill for your injuries or property damage.
- Underinsured motorist coverage can help cover medical expenses. If you get into an accident on your moped due to the negligence of another driver on the road, you may sustain severe injuries requiring medical treatment that costs more than the at-fault driver’s policy limits can cover. Underinsured motorist coverage can help cover medical expenses beyond what the at-fault driver’s insurance will.
8. Avoid distraction while driving.
Operating a moped or scooter means you travel at a much lower rate of speed than a standard passenger vehicle. At these lower speeds, you may feel comfortable using your phone, including checking your GPS or changing your music, while driving a moped. But you should always keep your attention on the road and avoid distraction. Drivers often fail to notice small vehicle riders, leading to accidents with serious injuries. Keep your cell phone tucked away and your eyes on the road. If conversing with a passenger, don’t look back at them directly.
9. Never drink and drive, even on a moped or scooter.
Any time you plan to drink, avoid driving afterward. Consider instead using public transportation or using a rideshare service when you plan to drink. Drinking impairs your coordination and slows your reaction time, decreasing your ability to spot potential trouble on the road. Drinking and driving leads to more severe injuries than if you had your full wits and faculties about you, in which case you would be better situated to make maneuvers to reduce the severity of an accident or avoid it altogether.
What to Do After a Moped, Scooter, or Vespa Accident
Unlike larger vehicles designed to transport multiple passengers, mopeds, scooters, and Vespas do not have a protective frame to help prevent injury. Consequently, drivers may suffer more serious injuries than people in passenger vehicles.
If someone hit you while you were riding, you may have grounds to file a motorcycle accident claim. If another driver’s negligence—such as drinking and driving, driving distracted, speeding, or ignoring the rules of the road—leads to an accident, you may have the right to seek compensation. If you can, report the accident to the police promptly, just like you would if you suffered injuries in an auto accident.
Seek medical attention for any injuries you suffered, even if you believe them relatively minor. Your visit to an emergency room or urgent care center can help provide records about your injuries, which may prove vital to your later motorcycle accident claim.
After you do this, a free consultation with a motorcycle accident lawyer can help you determine if you can seek compensation for the injuries a negligent driver or entity caused you.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814