In recent years, mopeds — also known as motorized bikes — have become increasingly popular in West Virginia and across the country. They’re far less expensive to buy than a car or truck, are more fuel-efficient, and can be a lot of fun to drive. Of course, the big drawback to these types of motor vehicles is that they offer far less protection than their larger counterpoints, making them more dangerous for drivers.
While mopeds have been popular in Europe and Asia for decades, they have only recently become trendy in the United States. Unfortunately, our roadways were not built to accommodate moped users, which is a primary factor in most moped accidents. In a collision between a motor vehicle and a moped, the driver of the moped is likely to suffer serious or even fatal injuries.
In West Virginia, there are specific laws that govern the use of mopeds. If you plan to drive a moped, it is important to familiarize yourself with these rules and regulations. At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are committed to keeping our clients safe. Our law firm has compiled West Virginia’s laws for your education — and with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of moped injuries and fatalities in our state.
If you have been injured in a moped accident, you may be entitled to compensation if another person caused the crash. A skilled personal injury attorney can analyze the facts of the case and provide you with legal advice about whether you may have a legal claim. A lawsuit may help you recover compensation for your damages, including lost wages, property damage, and medical bills.
The Dangers of Mopeds on West Virginia Roads
Most Americans are aware of the risk associated with motorcycle accidents. Yet because mopeds are smaller and less powerful than motorcycles, we may not realize that they can be just as dangerous.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 121 fatal moped accidents in 2017. In comparison, there were 4,868 fatal motorcycle crashes in the same year. While the numbers are significantly higher for motorcycles, there are significantly more motorcycles on the road than mopeds, with over 8.7 million motorcycles registered in the United States.
The NHTSA reports that approximately 40% of moped fatalities involved drivers or passengers who were not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision. Brain injuries are a common outcome of a crash involving a moped, whether it involves a collision with a car or motorcycle. Wearing a helmet (particularly one with a face shield) can help to reduce the risk of a brain injury — and protect you from the possibility of a fatal crash.
Other possible injuries from a moped crash include broken bones, internal injuries, road rash or contusions, and even neck or back injuries. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should seek medical care immediately.
Motorized Bicycles and Mopeds
In West Virginia, motorized bicycles and mopeds are defined as motor-driven cycles that:
- Have two or three wheels;
- Has foot pedals to assist with propulsion;
- Has a motor that produces no more than 2 brake horsepower, and has a displacement no larger than 50 CC;
- Has a maximum speed of 30mph on a level surface; and
- It has an automatic drive system that does not require manual clutching or shifting.
If your bicycle or moped exceeds the above specifications, then it is considered a motorcycle. In this case, you would be required to follow all motorcycle laws and requirements.
Other Moped Requirements
In order to drive on public roads, mopeds must be titled and registered through your local DMV office. Additionally, there are other requirements to follow in order to drive on public roads, including:
- A helmet must be worn at all times while riding, even as a passenger;
- Handlebars must not be more than 15 inches higher than the seat;
- You must ride in a proper seated position;
- You cannot carry a passenger unless the moped is designed for it, such as a passenger compartment or another permanently attached seat;
- It must have a rear-view mirror attached in such a way that it is easily visible while driving; and
- You must obey all standard driving laws.
If you violate one or more of these laws, it could play a factor in a personal injury case involving a moped accident. For example, if you are standing up on your moped while driving and are in a crash with a car, that could affect your case. The other driver’s insurance company may claim that it was your negligent behavior — standing up while driving, in violation of West Virginia law — that caused the car accident, rather than whatever they might have done (such as speeding).
In these situations, legal advice from an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney can be critical. Your lawyer can use their knowledge of the law to argue that it was the other vehicle’s speeding that caused the car accident, not your brief moment of standing. Because West Virginia is a comparative negligence state, as long as you are 50% or less at fault for the crash, you will still be able to recover.
West Virginia Moped FAQs
Do I Need a Motorcycle License to Operate a 49 CC Moped?
Anyone in possession of a normal driver’s license that is over the age of 16 is allowed to operate a moped in West Virginia. However, in order to drive a moped or scooter on public highways, it must be titled and registered in the same way that a regular passenger vehicle or motorcycle would be.
Do I Need a Motorcycle License for a 150 CC Scooter?
Yes. West Virginia considers motorcycles to be “any two-wheeled, motor-driven cycle with an engine of more than 50 CC.” If you have a motorcycle, it must be registered and covered with liability insurance. Motorcyclists are also subject to specific laws and regulations regarding the operation of their vehicles.
Contact an Experienced West Virginia Accident Attorney
While you may be eager to mount up on your moped or scooter and see the road from a new perspective, you must first understand West Virginia law and meet all safety precautions and requirements are before attempting to operate a moped or other motorized vehicle on a public road. Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can stop accidents from occurring entirely. If you have been injured in an accident, our law firm can help.
Based in Charleston, we represent clients throughout West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky on a range of matters, including motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, truck accidents and more. Our law firm is dedicated to helping people with their personal injury claims pursue compensation for damages, including lost wages, property damage, and medical bills. To learn more about West Virginia’s moped laws or for a free consultation with a West Virginia personal injury lawyer, contact Johnstone & Gabhart today.