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Know rules before buying scooters, PennDOT says

Thursday, November 27, 2003

By Michelle K. Massie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

While motorized scooters may appear on a number of holiday shopping lists this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police warn that they aren't allowed to be driven on streets or sidewalks.

It is illegal to drive the scooters on Pennsylvania streets and sidewalks because they lack basic safety features that are designed to protect the operator and would not be able to pass a safety inspection. Therefore, the scooters that are showing up in stores such as Wal-Mart and Sharper Image only can be operated on private property, such as driveways and back yards.

The stand-up and sit-down models of the scooters that are available with either gasoline or electric engines are subject to the prohibitions.

Law enforcement officials across the state have asked PennDOT to clarify the rules governing use of the scooters, said PennDOT spokeswoman Joan Nissley. She emphasized that people who plan to purchase the scooters should be aware that state law prohibits them from being driven on sidewalks or roads.

Only vehicles that are registered and titled can be driven on public roads. Also, there is no age or ability requirement to operate the scooters, so children, teens and adults can drive them without a license.

"The scooters have become more popular," Nissley said. "They can reach speeds of up to 10 to 20 mph and when you have kids riding them on sidewalks and darting on and off the roadways, it becomes a serious safety issue."

According to a statement from the Pittsburgh police, the scooters lack the basic safety features such as bumpers, windshield, front and side walls, lights, horn and seatbelts, which make the motorized scooters ineligible for registration or title. The only exception to the motorized scooter prohibition is for mobility devices for persons with disabilities or special needs.

In Pittsburgh, violators may be issued a traffic citation ranging from $25 to $200 with additional costs of $79.

"We're not looking at this from an enforcement standpoint, we're looking at it from an education standpoint," said Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Michael Del Cimmuto, of the Zone 2 traffic division. "We're letting people know before Black Friday, that if you buy one of these things, you're really not going to be able to ride it anywhere but in your own back yard."

Last summer, officials in two Westmoreland County communities, Penn Township and North Huntingdon, asked police to step up enforcement of the ban of scooters on streets and sidewalks after receiving complaints from residents.

Michelle K. Massie can be reached at or 412-263-2533.

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