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'Motorized devices' cause controversy

July 17, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

It's a common sight on many city and county streets: Children and young adults buzzing around, some riding the wrong way in traffic, on what commonly are known as motorized scooters.

But they're not motorized scooters, and that's where the problem comes in.

Technically, they don't meet Maryland's legal definition of motor scooters, and they're not mopeds, bicycles or motorcycles, according to local police.

So what are they?

Capt. Douglas Mullendore, chief deputy of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, said Friday that police don't yet know what to call them. They're waiting to hear an interpretation from the state's attorney general before they cite people for driving the motorized riding devices.

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That interpretation should be in next week, he said.

Police and businesses that sell the motorized riding devices met at the Sheriff's Department to discuss the legal interpretation of the motorized rides.

The Washington County State's Attorney's Office and police have said they think the motorized devices fall under the state's motor vehicle classification, meaning they must be registered and the driver must have a driver's license and insurance.

They have also said they're not allowed to be driven on public roads and in public areas.

"By law, they shouldn't be on the road - period," Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Steve Kessell said Friday. "Whether we like it or whether we don't ... the fact of the matter is these are motor vehicles."

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, who attended the meeting, said he has requested a state interpretation of the motorized devices.

"I think everybody would like to see some clarity on this," Shank said.

Pat Mayhew, owner of VIP Mobility on South Potomac Street, has said he thinks the devices are legal and don't need to be registered.

According to a July 2003 letter e-mailed to Mayhew from the Motor Vehicle Administration, scooters that do not meet minimum requirements to be categorized as a motorcycle do not have to be registered in Maryland. Those minimum requirements include an engine with at least 1.5 brake horsepower and a capacity of at least 49 cubic centimeters piston displacement. It also said many traffic laws applicable to bicycles under state law are applicable to scooters on public roads.

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