ATVS, Pocket Bikes, Golf Carts, Oh My!

Charles County Sheriff's Office reminds citizens about what's illegal on roadways

A pocket bike, all-terrain vehicle or golf cart might seem like a fun and inexpensive way to get around town or around the streets of your neighborhood but by law, many of these and similar modes of transportation can only be operated on your own property.

The Charles County Sheriff's Office has received more than 145 complaints of these types of vehicles being operated on roadways since May 1 and is preparing to begin issuing citations to offenders. However, beginning a strict enforcement policy, the Sheriff's Office wants to first ensure citizens know the laws regarding what can legally be operated on roadways - and what can not.

"Pocket bikes, ATVs and even golf carts have become a significant problem in Charles County," said Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "However, a lot of offenders don't know they are breaking any laws. We are putting information about the laws in the news and on our website before we start cracking down and issuing violators the appropriate citations. It's the fair way to resolve this problem."

Of the 145 vehicle complaints, officers say they see pocket bikes most commonly used in Waldorf and golf carts in the Cobb Island area.

The following is information regarding what vehicles can and can not be driven on roadways:

Maryland vehicle law defines motor vehicles as vehicles that are self-propelled or propelled by electric power obtained from overhead electrical wires and are not operated on rails. Under this definition, mopeds and motor scooters are not considered motor vehicles.

Any vehicle that is not registered in the state of Maryland may not be driven on Maryland highways. Maryland vehicle law defines highways as the entire width between the boundary lines of any way or thoroughfare of which any part is used by the public for vehicular travel, whether or not the way or thoroughfare has been dedicated to the public and accepted by any proper authority. This means ATVs, motorized skate boards, motorized bicycles, motorized mini-bikes, go-carts and golf carts can only be driven on private property with the permission of the owner or agent.

Mopeds and Motor Scooters
A moped is a bicycle that is designed to be operated by human power with the assistance of a motor and is equipped with pedals that mechanically drive the rear wheel or wheels. Mopeds have two or three wheels that are all more than 14 inches in diameter and have a motor with a rating of 1.5 brake horsepower or less. If the motor is a combustion engine, mopeds have a capacity of 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement or less.

Motor scooters are non-pedal vehicles that have a seat for the operator, have two wheels, one of which is 10 inches or more in diameter, and have a step-through chassis. Motor scooters have a motor with a rating of 2.7 brake horsepower or less, or if the motor is an internal combustion engine, with a capacity of 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement or less. Motor scooters are equipped with an automatic transmission. Motor scooters do no include a vehicle that has been manufactured for off-road use, including a motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle. Motor scooters are generally found at motorcycle shops and usually cost at least $1,500. If they are 50 cc's or less, they do not require tags. The driver must have a valid driver's license of any class from any state or country in which they reside or have a moped operator-s permit issued by the Maryland MVA.

Any person operating a bicycle, including a moped, or motor scooter should ride as close to the right side of the roadway as practical and safe, except when attempting to make a left turn, operating on a one-way street or passing a stopped or slower vehicle. Two people can ride side-by-side when it does not impede the flow of traffic. The law also states operators may walk the bicycle or motor scooter on the right side of a highway if there is no sidewalk.

These vehicles can not be operated on a roadway with a speed limit of more than 50 miles per hour and can not be operated in excess of 30 miles per hour, and all riders must wear a helmet.

Gas or Electric Motorized Toy Scooters
Whether they are gas or electric, motorized toy scooters - often called "pocket bikes" - are self-propelled and therefore meet the Maryland vehicle law's definition of a motor vehicle. They can not be operated on a sidewalk. Because these vehicles do not have a wheel that is 10 inches or more in diameter or a step-through chassis and because they are self-propelled, they are considered motor vehicles. But just as an ATV, go-cart, golf cart and dirt bike motorcycle, they do not need to be registered and are for use on private property only, with the permission of the property owner or agent.

Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Devices
Electronic personal assistive mobility devices (EPAMDs) are self-balancing, pedestrian devices that have two wheels that are not in tandem. They may be operated on sidewalks and only roadways with speed limits that do not exceed 30 miles per hour and that do not have an adjacent sidewalk.

Driving on Sidewalks
Driving on sidewalks is prohibited unless the sidewalk is a permanent or authorized temporary driveway. Where permitted, unicycles, bicycles - not including mopeds - and play vehicles may be ridden on a sidewalk or sidewalk area. Play vehicles are defined as a vehicle that has two or three wheels, is propelled only by human power and is not a bicycle. Also, unless prohibited by a local ordinance, an individual with a disability may use a special vehicle on sidewalks or sidewalk areas.

Anyone who violates these laws will be subject to the following citations that apply:

* Driving unregistered motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer or pole trailer on a highway, a $275 fine.
* Driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a highway without the required license and authorization, a $315 fine
* Operating a moped or motor scooter without the required license or permit, a $315 fine
* Causing a child or ward under age 15 to drive a motor vehicle on a highway, a $275 fine
* Knowingly permitting a child or ward under 15 to drive a motor vehicle on a highway, a $275 fine
* Driving a vehicle on a sidewalk and sidewalk area where prohibited, a $55 fine
* Parent or Guardian authorizing a minor or ward to violated bicycle, play vehicle or motor scooter laws, a $35 fine
* Parent or Guarding knowingly permitting a minor or ward to violated bicycle, play vehicle or motor scooter laws, a $35 fine
* Riding a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway with a maximum posted speed above 50 miles per hour, expressway or controlled access highway, a $35 fine
* Riding a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway where a smooth bike lane or shoulder is available, a $35 fine

For examples of these vehicles and for information about these laws, visit the Sheriff's Office's website at To report someone operating a vehicle illegally, contact the Charles County Sheriff's Office at 301-932-2222 in La Plata, 301-743-2222 in Indian Head and 301-932-7777 in Waldorf.

Featured Sponsor

Brinsfield Funeral Home, P.A.
The Golden Rule Funeral Home, serving all of Southern Maryland.

Reader Comments

Featured Sponsor

Charles County Chamber of Commerce
Serving the business community since 1956. Visit our site for info on how you can become a member.

Need Legal Representation?

Five So. Maryland locations to serve you. Personal Injury, Criminal Defense, DUI Defense.

Follow SoMd HL News