Legal Differences Between Mopeds, Scooters, and Motorcycles in Tennessee

Young couple riding a scooter down a country roadWith the rise in two-wheeled transportation across the state, Tennessee has recently addressed motorcycle, scooter, and moped safety through legislation. Although people may use these terms interchangeably, Tennessee law considers each of them separately and assigns different regulations for licensing, insurance, and safety standards.      

Licensing

Tennessee Driver Services classifies two-wheeled motorized vehicles into three separate categories, with licensing differences for each, as follows:

  • Motorcycle. Any two or three-wheeled vehicle that has an engine larger than 125cc and can reach an excess of 35 mph.
  • Motor-driven cycle (scooter). Any two or three-wheeled vehicle that has an engine with a cylinder capacity up to 125cc. 
  • Motorized bicycle (moped). Any two or three-wheeled vehicle with a 50cc capacity engine or smaller. Mopeds are generally considered to be a hybrid of a motor-driven cycle and a pedal bike.

Tennessee law requires the registration, licensing, and endorsement of all motorcycles and motor-driven cycles. This type of licensing is known as Class M licensing. Motorized bicycles are exempt from requiring a Class M license as their engines prohibit the driver from traveling more than 35 mph; however, a regular driver’s license is required.

  • Motorcycle Class M (primary and secondary). A motorcycle license allows the holder the legal privilege of operating a motorcycle in the state of Tennessee. The driver examination will include a vision screening, knowledge test, and an on-cycle ability skills test. If the operator already has a valid driver’s license, the Class M license will be added in the secondary position on the primary license.
  • Motor-driven cycle Class M. This license is similar to the motorcycle Class M license and has the same criteria: vision screening, knowledge test, and an on-cycle ability skills test. However, it also has restrictions. If the license is issued to a minor 15 to 16 years old it will be valid only within a seven-mile radius of the operator’s home and only between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Other restrictions (for minors and adults) will be determined by the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
  • Motorized bicycle license. If the operator is 14 or 15, he must have a motorized bicycle license to operate a moped. If the operator is 16 or older, a valid driver’s license is required.

Insurance

Accident insurance is required for any registered motorcycle or scooter in the state of Tennessee. Insurance coverage for two and three-wheeled motorized vehicles must include:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury if multiple people are involved in the accident
  • $15,000 for property damage

Although proof of insurance is not required at the time of registration, if the operator is caught without the proper insurance, the penalties will be the same as driving a car without insurance.

It’s important to note that the legally required coverage is only the minimum amount of insurance you’ll need. Just as with any other vehicle, minimum coverage doesn’t always mean that you’re fully protected. Purchasing additional protection (uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage) will ensure that if the person that causes your accident isn’t properly insured, you’ll still have the resources to pay for your accident-related injuries.

Safety 

Whether you’re riding a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or moped, the risks remain the same. Unlike a steel-framed car, you have limited protection if you collide with another vehicle or object or lose control. As a result of these risks, the Tennessee Safety Board has similar mandates across the board for two and three-wheeled vehicles: 

  • Helmet regulations. Helmets are required to be worn at all times—regardless of age, license, or endorsement—to operate a moped, scooter, or motorcycle.
  • Road restrictions. A moped that has a maximum speed of 30 mph or less is prohibited from entering highways and is restricted to certain areas within each city—depending on designated speed limits. Smaller-engine mopeds and scooters are prohibited from going where the speed limits are higher than the cycle is capable of reaching.
  • License plate regulations. If the vehicle is used on roadways and is registered, it will require a valid license plate.

Although not a requirement, the Safety Board highly recommends motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, and moped operators to cover their vehicles and helmets with additional reflective stickers. These stickers make the vehicle more visible and easier for other cyclists and drivers to see at night, drastically decreasing accident potential.

For more information on scooter, moped, and motorcycle safety and accident law contact our Franklin office today. We’re a local firm with local interests at heart. Call us today at 615-807-7900 to schedule a FREE consultation.