Mass. Registry of Vehicles going after scooter scofflaws

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Massachusetts’ Registry of Motor Vehicles is cracking down on scooter scofflaws who are dodging paying registration fees and getting plates for their scoots.

The state is sending nearly 350 scooter owners warning letters this week threatening to revoke licenses of those who don’t pay up. But according to a Globe review, 10 times that many scooter owners — 3,500 — could potentially be in violation of the state’s year-old “limited-use’’ vehicle law.

The law requires scooters that can travel over 30 miles per hour, to be classified as limited-use vehicles, which triggers a requirement for license plates and insurance. Slower bikes are classified as mopeds, and don’t need license plates or insurance. Bikes that can go faster than 40 miles per hour are considered motorcycles, which require plates or insurance. But that Registry has been taking owners’ and dealers’ word for it.

The Globe’s analysis of registration data shows that at least 500 scooter owners — beyond the ones receiving letters — have inaccurately registered their bikes as mopeds. And another 3,000 scooter owners failed to specify model names or numbers of their bikes, which would tell the Registry how fast their vehicles go. Their applications were approved.

But the Globe’s inquiries sent the department scurrying to cross-check thousands of moped registrations against a list of scooters that can travel at least 30 miles per hour, identifying 344 violations off the bat.

While some owners may have been confused about the law, others lied or said dealers misled them.

New scooter owner Melhem Berkachi told the Globe he wasn’t told that his Yamaha Zuma scooter required a $50 license plate when he bought it last week.

“The salesman told me, ‘License plate or sticker. It’s your call,’ ’’ Berkachi says. “I said that I wanted to park it on the sidewalk. So he said, ‘Get a sticker.’ ’’

Berkachi said the dealer handled all the paperwork, including getting a moped sticker for him, even though his vehicle can reach 35 miles per hour.

The Registry may send out warnings this summer to more scooter owners who are in clear violation of the law, but has no plans to contact all 3,000 owners whose registrations were incomplete.

Posted by Holly Wagner