New Rhode Island Moped and Motor Scooter Laws for 2006

Rhode Island, at 1,545 square miles, is the smallest of the fifty states in America. What it lacks in geographical size, it more than makes up for in its scenic locales and coastline ambience. Many tourists flock to Rhode Island in the Summer months, particularly to Newport and Block Island.

On rural Block Island especially, mopeds and motor scooters are very popular forms of transportation for visiting tourists. The demand for mopeds and motor scooters is so great at Block Island, RI, that at least five moped and motor scooter rental businesses are located there.

In 2005, a Rhode Island Superior Court Judge ruled that all riders of such vehicles in Rhode Island must have motorcycle licenses. Because the majority of the tourists and others who rent the mopeds and motor scooters do not have motorcycle licenses, scooter dealers feared that enforcement of the law would force them out of business. In the Summer of 2005, motor scooter dealers in Providence and Block Island, RI sued the State of Rhode Island, claiming that the motorcycle license laws would grievously harm their businesses.

When the Superior Court Judge in South Kingstown agreed with the DMV’s original wording of the law regarding scooters that do not exceed 30 mph, he did so while urging the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island to change the law, to accomodate “modern technology relating to two- wheeled vehicles ” on the states roadways. In late March 2006, after being passed by the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island, the law regarding operation of mopeds and motor scooters in Rhode Island was changed.

Effective March 2006, operators of motor scooters with engines smaller than 50 cubic centimeters and that do not exceed 30 mph are only required to have a valid drivers license. In other words, all that is needed to operate a moped or motor scooter in Rhode Island is a valid drivers license, essentially from anywhere. The law is similar to moped and motor scooter laws in Massachusets, which has several tourist destinations where scooter- use is popular, notably Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

While the change in motor vehicle law regarding operation of mopeds and motor scooters is sure to make scooter dealers and tourists in Rhode Island happy, some Block Island residents are unhappy with the law. The concerned citizens claim that the scooters are dangerous in untrained hands and emit harmful levels of pollution. While that may or may not be debatable, the law in Rhode Island, effective March 2006, states that to operate a moped or a motor scooter with an engine less than 50 cubic centimeters and that does not exceed 30 mph, all that is required is a regular drivers license.

So, strap on a helmet, and go for a ride.

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