Scooters not ‘street legal’

 

Santa might be putting electric and gas-powered scooters under the tree this season.

Local law enforcement officials warn, however, that the newest mode of transportation for children and teens might not be allowed on rural and state highways.

“(We urge) parents and guardians to be aware of and study (state) laws carefully before the consideration of purchasing motorized scooters for your children,” said Lt. Malcolm Dupre, spokesman for the Thibodaux Police Department.

Dupre said Thibodaux officers will enforce traffic regulations with the popular scooters the same way they do with any other motor vehicle.

Which means, he said, if you don’t have a license, you don’t get on the road.

Dupre pointed to the Louisiana Highway Regulatory Act, which defines motor vehicles, motorcycles and other modes of transportation. According to the law, all motor vehicles and their operators must be licensed to be on the roads.

That includes motorized scooters, as it does all-terrain vehicles, Dupre said.

The conundrum of the situation is that the state is not yet recognizing motorized scooters as motor vehicles.

“These scooters are not roadworthy,” said Michelle Rayburn of the state Office of Motor Vehicles. “The office is not registering these vehicles. We only register vehicles that are roadworthy.”

Another likely issue will revolve around the horsepower of the scooters. The cutoff mark, according to the law, for a scooter to be considered a “motor driven vehicle,” is 5 horsepower. Some motor scooters do not exceed 5 horsepower.

The Louisiana State Police is currently doing research into the situation and possible solutions to the problem, Troop C spokesman Trooper Matt Trahan said. Lt. William Davis with the State Police’s Public Affairs Office said they are working closely with their legal department and with the Office of Motor Vehicles for a solution.

“We hope to have something more definitive any day,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, the scooters are selling as fast as retailers can stock them.

“It is the hottest item we have right now,” said Tom Shaw, owner of Tom’s Bike Shop in Thibodaux. “This is the best Christmas we’ve ever had.”

Shaw, who also had 23 scooters stolen in two recent break-ins, said even his distributor had run out of stock when he made his last order.

“That shows you how popular they are,” he said.

Most of the scooters stolen from Shaw’s shop have been recovered by the Thibodaux Police and the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office. No arrests have been made, however, and the case is still under investigation.

Shaw said he has seen some youngsters riding on scooters in recent weeks, but has not seen any stopped by the police as of yet.

That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though.