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Ruling finds motor vehicle rules apply to some scooters

August 18, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

An assistant attorney general issued an opinion last week that says "pocket rocket"/"mini-Harley" scooters should be subject to the same regulations as most motor vehicles.

One local business owner said the decision could spur lawsuits from scooter and shop owners.

Assistant Attorney General Bonnie A. Kirkland, in a letter dated Aug. 9, said she believes mini-motorcycle-style scooters should be considered motor vehicles because they do not have a step-through chassis, as motor scooters do, or pedals, as mopeds do.

"...It is my view that such vehicles must be registered in order to be operated on public roadways in this state, that the owner must have the required insurance, and that the operator must have a valid license or permit," Kirkland said in the letter.

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Local law enforcement officials and personnel from the Washington County State's Attorney's Office had been waiting for the information requested earlier this summer amid increased enforcement efforts aimed at scooters on public roads.

A June letter from Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Acton II said other scooters, those with a step-through chassis, must be registered, and drivers need some type of permit or license.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Capt. Douglas Mullendore and Hagerstown Police Department Capt. Charles Summers could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Pat Mayhew, owner of VIP Mobility on South Potomac Street, said the decision will slow already lighter sales of the mini-motorcycle scooters.

Mayhew said he believes the decision and continued police enforcement could lead to lawsuits from business owners and customers. He contended that state agencies and authorities said in early 2004 that the mini-motorcycle scooters were legal to use on public streets.

"To have that purpose jerked out from underneath them is certainly an issue, he said. "In my opinion, it deflates the value."

Mayhew said he has considered filing a lawsuit himself, but would not elaborate.

Mayhew said he was "soured" by what he believes was a lack of response from area elected officials, except Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington. He was particularly critical of Hagerstown officials.

"They certainly haven't served all these people that bought these - It's no wonder there's no business downtown," Mayhew said.

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