Motorized scooters no longer child’s play

Plainsboro and West Windsor police enforce different policies on the gas- and battery-powered vehicles.

By: Shanay Cadette
   PLAINSBORO — A scooter ride down this township’s streets or sidewalks could land your children in traffic court — or even delay when they can get their driver’s license.
   It may seem like a high price to pay for a toy. But legislators and police officials argue the popular motor scooters and motorized skateboards aren’t toys because gas-powered engines propel them up to 30 mph.
   Some of the scooters sold in stores require riders to stand up. Others look like miniature versions of motorcycles, complete with side mirrors, a headlight and seat. They can cost up to several hundred dollars, depending on the style.
   If someone is caught riding the motorized scooters or skateboards in Plainsboro, the police department is authorized to ticket the operator — whether that person is an adult or a child — for operating an unregistered or uninsured vehicle. Riders could also be forced to pay tow charges and fines and have adverse information placed on their driving records.
   Plainsboro Police Lt. Elizabeth L. Bondurant said, according to state statutes, a motorized scooter or skateboard is defined as a motor vehicle. This means riding a motorized skateboard or scooter on a sidewalk or street is comparable to driving a car on a sidewalk or street. Except, unlike vehicles, scooters and skateboards are not required by law to be insured or registered.
   That quandary leaves parents and their children in a Catch 22 situation because scooter and skateboard riders can’t register to operate the vehicles even if they wanted to at this point. Essentially, the riders cannot use streets, sidewalks, parking lots, parks or any other public areas, Lt. Bondurant said. They have nowhere to ride, she said, unless they get permission from private property owners to use their premises.
   "Remember when mopeds came out in the ’70s and ’80s?" she said. "The state had to ultimately create a special license to make them legal for the roadways."
   Legislators will have to do the same for the motorized scooters and skateboards and Assemblyman Donald Tucker (D-Newark) is working on a bill to regulate their use. Legislators and officials at the state Motor Vehicles Commission are still discussing the proposal and no bill has been introduced.
   Mr. Tucker said requiring registration, protective gear and training is under discussion. Legislators are also considering age limits to ride the scooters or skateboards, and allowing municipalities to designate public property — other than a street, sidewalk or highway — as an area to ride them.
   Until regulations are set at the state level, municipalities are dealing with scooters and skateboards as they see fit.
   Plainsboro police will enforce the law, although Lt. Bondurant said officers have yet to issue any tickets.
   Riders in West Windsor don’t face the same motor vehicle regulations as Plainsboro residents, although West Windsor Patrol Officer Mary Louise Dranchak said individuals will be cited if they break existing laws while riding the scooters and skateboards.
   Neither the Plainsboro and West Windsor police departments has received many residential complaints, although West Windsor resident Bob Cox recently warned Township Council members the township could face lawsuits if no ordinances are in place.