By Joe Beck
Riding down streets on a moped means more regulations and paperwork under new state laws that took effect July 1.
The Department of Motor Vehicles now requires all moped drivers in Virginia to carry government-issued photo identification whenever they hit the road. The state is also requiring drivers and riders to wear helmets with a face shield or safety goggles unless the moped has a windshield.
A longer-term change requires any moped operating in the commonwealth to have a title and registration by July 1, 2014. The title costs $10 and annual registration is $20.25.
Sunni Brown, public relations and media liaison with the DMV, said the growing popularity of mopeds led state officials to tighten the laws under which they operate. One goal is to make it easier to keep track of the ownership of each vehicle, she said.
Before July 1, moped drivers needed only to carry something bearing their name, address and date of birth, Brown said.
"Literally, you could write it on a slip of paper and have it in your pocket," Brown said of the identifying information.
The casual identification requirement led to some cases in which riders who were injured or died in accidents could not be identified for as long as several days afterward, Brown said. In other cases, the absence of title and registration made stolen mopeds difficult for law enforcement officers to trace, Brown said.
Brown said high gas prices and the affordability of mopeds have contributed to their popularity in many parts of the state, especially in Northern Virginia, the coastal areas and around Richmond.
Strasburg police Chief Tim Sutherly said crimes and accidents involving mopeds have been more prevalent in larger communities.
Sutherly has noticed more of them around Strasburg. He said he understands the reasons for the title and registration requirement, although no mopeds have been stolen in the community.
"Even when they're recovered, it's hard to prove it's the owner's vehicle because they've been untitled and unregistered," Sutherly said.
Brown said moped drivers can use any form of government-issued photo identification to comply with the law. The identification does not have to be a driver's license.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org