New traffic laws set to make major changes for Virginia motorists - The Daily Progress: News

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New traffic laws set to make major changes for Virginia motorists

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 11:16 pm

Virginia moped owners won't be able to scoot around state paperwork much longer.

As part of a group of traffic laws taking effect Monday, scooter riders will be required to register their bikes with the state, though they'll have until July 1, 2014, to do so.

Also starting Monday, texting while driving becomes a primary offense, which means police can pull motorists over if authorities see them texting, and drivers with provisional licenses will face changes in the limits on how many passengers may ride with them.

"Our belief is the fact that a police officer can pull over and cite someone for texting should serve as a major deterrent to those who are currently breaking the law and putting everyone on the roadway in danger," said Martha M. Meade, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Currently, drivers can only be ticketed for texting if police pull them over for another offense. The new law removes that requirement, and stiffens the fines. Virginia doesn't have a prohibition on cell phone use while driving, though there is a ban on young drivers using electronics behind the while, Meade said.

Drivers younger than 18 who have had provisional licenses for at least a year will be allowed up to three passengers younger than 21, but only when going to or from a school activity, with a passenger 21 or older in the front seat or in an emergency. Currently, the limit is three passengers younger than 18, but with no restrictions.

Perhaps the most complex changes will be for scooter riders. The state defines anything with an engine smaller than 50cc and that travels 35 mph or less as a moped, and anything that travels faster or has a bigger engine as a motorcycle.

Moped riders now face few regulations, and it's common for people who own bikes that meet the state's definition of motorcycles to pass them off as mopeds, since they have scooter-style bodies, said Chelsea Lahmers, owner of Scoot Richmond, a scooter dealership.

The new law requires scooters to have titles and be registered with the state by July 1, 2014. That means scooter owners will get a single license plate to hang on the back. The state won't require insurance or safety inspections.

Titles will cost $10 and registration, $20.25. Customized plates will be available for $10 more.

Moped drivers will be required to carry some form of photo identification, though they still won't be required to have driver's licenses. They'll also have to wear helmets and, if their mopeds don't have windshields, goggles.

"It shouldn't have too much of an effect on people as long as they're already following the rules," Lahmers said, adding that Richmond already requires helmets.

Taking a bug, or other object, to the eye is a great way to crash, she said. 649-6861

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