Before you purchase a scooter, you should consider getting your M class license. This license allows you to ride scooters, motorcycles and other two wheeled vehicles in public and on roads. You can check with your local DMV for information. Most DMV locations will have M class license training, including the rental of a scooter that you can learn to drive on. Remember that some scooter sellers will not allow you to purchase a scooter without this license.
Any two wheeled bicycle or scooter that can be operated without pedaling is considered to be a motorized vehicle and is subject to a number of laws in the United States. Unfortunately, these laws do vary by city, state, and county, and each area can make their own laws, some of which are very restrictive. However, for the most part, the laws cover the same basic rules, which can be applied to any area in the U.S. These laws include the following.
Licensing: Anyone who intends to drive on a regular road or street rather than a sidewalk requires a motorcycle or moped license in order to drive legally. In addition, it is almost always a good idea to get licensing for any two wheeled motorized vehicle, no matter what the power, as regulations vary, even for low-power 25cc and under vehicles. If the scooter drives faster than 30 miles per hour, you most likely need a license to drive it.
Helmets:Helmets are required for any road-worthy vehicle when being driven on the road. Most three or four wheel scooter users can get away without a helmet on a sidewalk or street but two-wheel scooters almost always require a helmet for safety reasons. Many states require anyone under 18 to wear a helmet while on a scooter but an increasing number of states are requiring all drivers to wear one.
Use on Roadways: Many scooters cannot be driven on roadways but can be driven on sidewalks and on streets. Typically any lightweight scooter such as a sit-down three wheeled scooter is not allowed on the road. However, a larger scooter that is nearing motorcycle class may be allowed on the road. For this reason, it is important to check up with the manufacturer on the specific scooter in question. Some motor scooters are street legal but not road worthy and others are not fit for either. In general, you want a scooter to be able to drive at least 75 miles per hour in order to drive on the road. Any scooter that has an engine lower than 50cc is almost definitely not street legal. A scooter that can go 30 miles per hour is probably sufficient for driving in slow traffic around town, but not for any other types of roads.
Safety: Finally, many states have specific safety regulations regarding motor scooters. Depending on the state these regulations can include that the scooter must have fenders, or that the driver must legally register and license their scooter. These regulations greatly vary from state to state, so it is important to have a discussion with the local DMV to decide what you have to do.
Scooter laws are slowly but steadily increasing across the United States for a number of reasons. The first is that scooter and moped sales are up about 7-8% per year as more people look for fuel efficient transport. Unfortunately, scooter related accidents are up 50%, leading to a widespread addition of new laws, bills, and restrictions for scooter owners. Typically the best way to get localized information is to go to the DMV, or talk with your local scooter retailer to see if they have any information for you.