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Riders scoot toward ticket if they don't know the rules

Police say many scooter riders don't know they need to be approved to ride a motorcycle before hopping on their trendy two-wheelers.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Scooters are becoming an increasingly popular choice for area commuters, but police said riders could be scooting toward a ticket if they don't properly register the two-wheelers and license themselves.

Some scooter owners believe they have to obey moped rules while zipping around town, but they really need to treat the vehicles like motorcycles, said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department.

Any scooter with a motor larger than 50 cc or that can travel faster than 30 mph is considered a motorcycle, Sughrue said, meaning it needs to be registered with the state Division of Motor Vehicles and the driver needs to obtain insurance and be licensed to ride a motorcycle.

Moped riders only need to wear a helmet. Neither they nor their vehicles need to be licensed under state law.

Sughrue said officers who have become knowledgeable about scooter makes and models are handing out more tickets to scooter riders for having no registration or an improper license.

The tickets appear to be the only hitch in the growing popularity of scooters. Raleigh's Vespa dealership can't keep the trendy vehicles in stock, parts manager Greg Murphy said.

"There's a waiting list," Murphy said, adding that Vespa Raleigh doesn't even have a scooter in its showroom.

Fuel economy is a primary reason for their popularity. Vespas can get up to 100 miles per gallon.

"I love it. (It) gets good gas mileage (and is) easy get around town," scooter owner Wesley Oakley said.

"I wish I could afford one. I wish I could afford one," driver Karen Malloy said.

Some drivers don't like scooters, though.

"They get in my way," Al Salisbury said.

"They're small (and) hard for cars to see them, and I don't think roads were really built for them," Chris Price said.

Police said they haven't seen an increase in wrecks involving scooters or complaints about scooter drivers.

Ken Phillips, who owns a smaller Vespa that is legally considered a moped, said he was stopped for traveling 42 mph downhill.

"I got stopped by a state trooper for speeding," Phillips said. "He only gave me a warning. Come on, it's a scooter."