NEW FOR FRIDAY: New Scooter Changes Take Effect Monday

NEW FOR FRIDAY: New Scooter Changes Take Effect Monday
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OCEAN CITY — Among a bevy of new state laws set to take effect on Monday are vast changes to the rules and regulations regarding scooters and mopeds, increasingly popular forms of transportation in the resort area, but one significant element will be somewhat relaxed right from the get-go.

Next Monday, Oct. 1, will be the effective date for many of the new laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly and signed by the governor last spring, including several with local implications. Perhaps the new law watched most closely by resort area residents and visitors are changes to the rules and regulations regarding scooter and moped use.

On Monday, new Maryland vehicle laws take effect requiring all scooters and mopeds to be titled and insured. In addition, the new law requires all scooter and moped operators and passengers to wear a helmet and eye protection. The new regulations are in addition to the existing laws on the books that require scooter and moped operators to possess a valid driver’s license or a moped operator’s permit. In addition, scooter and moped operators will be required to insure their vehicles and must obtain at least the minimum vehicle liability insurance. Scooter and moped operators must carry proof of insurance with then whenever they are operating the vehicles.

Scooters and mopeds will be required to be titled by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Owners will be able to obtain titling information through the MVA beginning Oct. 1. When the title is obtained, the vehicle owner will be provided with a decal that must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle.

However, because the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) did not set up its on-line scooter and moped registration system far enough in advance to allow operators to obtain the titles and decals before the new law goes into effect, the state has instructed local law enforcement agencies to offer a grace period of sorts for that element of the new laws. OCPD spokesman Pfc. Mike Levy this week told the Ocean City Mayor and Council the officers are prepared to enforce most of the new laws governing scooters and mopeds, but will relax enforcement of the registration component.

“The MVA was a little slow getting the information about registration updated on their website, so we’re going to relax the enforcement on the registration component for an additional 30 days,” said OCPD spokesman Pfc. Mike Levy this week. “We’re still going to be out enforcing the helmet and eye protection elements as well as the insurance element starting next week.”

Earlier in the week, Levy told the Mayor and Council that OCPD officers would be strictly enforcing the other elements of the new scooter laws.

“The chief has instructed all of our officers to make sure that they go forth with enforcement on Oct. 1, so if you’re riding a scooter without a registration tag and you get pulled over, you better make sure you have a helmet, eye protection and you’re proof of insurance,” Levy told the town’s elected officials.

Another new law set to go into effect on Monday changes the requirements for child safety seats in vehicles. Effective Oct. 1, new state law drops the current 65-pound weight exemption for child safety seats and implements a requirement for all children under the age of eight to be in a safety seat unless they are 4’9” or taller. Every child ages 8-16 who is not secured in a child safety restraint, which include car seats and boosters, must be secured in a vehicle safety belt.

Another law going into effect on Monday requires a driver approaching a non-functioning traffic control signal from any direction to stop at a clearly marked stop line before entering the intersection. Drivers must also yield to and vehicle or pedestrian already in the intersection and remained stopped until it is safe to enter and continue through.

Hundreds of new laws go into effect on Monday across Maryland and most have at least some local implications. Another new law that goes into effect on Monday impacts the maximum penalties for simple marijuana possession convictions. A quick glance at the daily and weekly arrest reports in Ocean City reveal the new law could have a significant impact on residents and visitors to the area.

House Bill 350, which becomes law on Oct. 1, states a person convicted for the use or possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is subject to a maximum jail term not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $500 or both. The intent is to prevent an expensive and time-consuming log jam for those arrested for simple possession requesting jury trials.

Prior to the enactment of the new state law last year, misdemeanor marijuana possession carried a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Under Maryland law, one can only request a jury trial if the maximum penalty exceeds 90 days in jail. After Oct. 1, those charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana cannot immediately request a jury trial, but rather can accept a plea or elect to have a bench trial before a District Court judge.