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How to keep safe on your moped

By Ken Gibson on February 1, 2021

Riding a moped can be fun, whether you’re zipping around your neighborhood, running errands, or zooming around a college campus. However, as with any vehicle, you need to know how to keep safe on the road.

We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys have represented too many seriously injured moped riders, and we’ve learned some lessons we want to share:

What factors contribute to moped rider injuries?

  • Moped riders are not always given the same respect as car drivers, and tragic consequences can result.
  • Unpaved roads can contribute to moped riders having severe or lethal injuries. Coastal Virginia has many of these rougher roads, but they can be corrected.
  • Other factors include unclear speed limits, poor lighting, and major roadways with four or more lanes.

Aren’t mopeds the same as motorcycles?

In Virginia, mopeds are classified as motorized vehicles that use two to three wheels to travel up to 35 miles an hour. They are distinct from motorcycles and electric scooters, according to the legal definition of a moped.

Despite this, many people falsely assume that riding a moped is the same as riding a motorcycle. While both vehicles lack major safety features, are harder for cars to see and hear, and use similar designs, they handle very differently.

  • First, motorcycles offer more mobility than mopeds, making it easier for motorcyclists to swerve around dangerous conditions. For example, if a car backs out of a driveway into a public street, a motorcycle driver will have an easier time swerving out of the way, while a moped rider is more likely to be hit.
  • Second, in terms of speed, mopeds use lighter, 49-CC engines that can’t match the performance of motorcycles. While this typically makes mopeds safer, because moped riders are less likely to be in high-speed collisions, it also means they can’t respond quickly to negligent drivers or other bad conditions.
  • Third, tire size plays an important role in accidents. Motorcycles use larger, sturdier tires, which can help them stay upright when sideswiped by a car or during a sharp turn. The lighter, smaller tires of mopeds mean less control, making riders more likely to tip over.

Do moped riders suffer the same amount and severity in injuries as bikers?

Notably, mopeds are at higher risk to be in a crash than scooters and motorcycles, according to a study comparing available data. However, moped riders tend to underreport their accidents, which can make this more difficult to track.

Motorcyclists do suffer more vertebral and midfoot fractures than moped riders, according to a two-year study. But motorcyclists and moped drivers are equally likely to have severe injuries in a crash.

What laws should Virginia moped riders know?

Moped riders have to follow the same rules as other vehicle operators, but the Virginia DMV has several specific rules just for moped riders. These rules are designed to keep moped riders and their passengers safe:

  • Age Limit: All moped riders must be at least 16 years old.
  • Licensing: Moped riders must carry a government-issued photo ID, but they do not have to carry a driver’s license or motorcycle license.
    Note: Anyone with a license suspension from a DUI cannot legally drive a moped.
  • Registration: All mopeds on public roads must be licensed with the Virginia DMV and have a rear-facing, DMV-issued license plate.
  • Helmet Use: All moped riders and passengers must wear Virginia State Police-approved helmets, as well as face shields, safety glasses, or goggles if the moped does not have a windshield.
    Note: Sadly, only 17% of moped operators who crashed were wearing helmets, according to a recent study.
  • Eye Protection: Virginia law also requires moped drivers to wear eye protection such as a helmet visor or safety goggles. This law too is often ignored.
  • Turns: Moped drivers must use their turn signals before making a turn, but if a moped does not have a turn signal, the rider can use hand signals instead.
  • Insurance: Virginia does not require moped riders to have insurance, but we recommend that you do. Having a standard policy will help anyone injured in a moped accident, and if you add uninsured motorist coverage (UM), you can file a claim if you’re ever injured in a hit-and-run accident.
    Note: Auto, renter, and homeowner’s insurance do not cover mopeds, but a motorcycle insurance policy does.

Moped riders, remember that you have the same rights as other vehicle operators. This means that car drivers should respect your right of way, let you to use a full lane or traffic or bike lane, and avoid doing anything that could injure you, including tailgating, making dangerous turns, or failing to check their mirrors before changing lanes.

If you are injured by a negligent or reckless driver, we encourage you to reach out to us at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys and consider filing an injury claim.

How can I protect myself as a moped driver?

We at GibsonSingleton work hard to help prevent senseless accidents from happening to start with by sharing safety information. So, we encourage moped riders to follow these tips:

  1. Take a riding class: Several Virginia Riding Training Programs are available near you, so take one to get the latest information from trained professionals.
  2. Pick the right gear: Wear a helmet and bright, reflective clothing. Mopeds are small and easily missed, and wearing bright colors makes it easier for other drivers to spot you. Avoid wearing open-toed shoes or sandals and consider padded clothing to protect yourself in a fall or crash. Remember that Virginia law also requires moped drivers to wear eye protection such as a helmet visor or safety goggles.
  3. Keep right: The safest place for you is the right of a road or bike lane. Mopeds are obviously slower than cars, so keeping close to the curb can help protect you from aggressive drivers.
  4. Don’t drive under the influence: Alcohol and drug use were a significant risk factor in severe and lethal moped crashes, according to a Florida study. So be wise, and stay sober and alert.
  5. Ride defensively: Stay focused, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, avoid distractions, and watch for intersections, parking lots, driveways, or anything else that may make it hard for drivers to see you.
  6. Get a tune-up: Take your new or used moped to a mechanic regularly to make sure everything’s in order. Your owner’s manual should outline which services you need periodically, based on mileage. But if you’re concerned about something, take your moped to a shop even sooner.
  7. Add an insurance policy: We recommend investing in an insurance policy for your moped. In addition to liability and UIM insurance, also consider getting MedPay. These policies can cover your injuries right away if you’re in an accident, no matter who was at fault.

In addition to these tips, the Virginia DMV has summarized several more moped safety tips to help you avoid accidents.

Who can help me if I’m injured in a moped accident?

If you or someone you love is in a moped accident, we invite you to reach out to the experienced, compassionate team at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. We are dedicated Virginia moped accident attorneys who have successfully helped numerous clients receive compensation after moped wrecks. Beyond being experienced attorneys, we are former U.S. Marines who know how to build a strategy and then execute on it to get results for you.

If you choose to work with us, you can know that we will investigate your case thoroughly, and then aggressively work for full compensation for all of your damages. Call our office today at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 to schedule a free consultation.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
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    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
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    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.