Spurred in part by the fatal crash of a Reston teen on a mini bike earlier this year, Fairfax County Police are undergoing safety and law enforcement training about two-wheeled motorized vehicles.
Law enforcement officials say there were 600 crashes — 12 of them fatal — among riders of mopeds, mini-bikes and motorscooters in Virginia in 2013. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 20 percent of all accidents and 10 percent involved excessive speed, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
The DMV says 1,967 people have been injured in 2,062 moped crashes over the past five years.
Fairfax County Police do not keep stats on mopeds, mini-bikes and other similar vehicles on county streets, they say they see anecdotal evidence of growing popularity. Warm weather and high gas prices may be possible contributors.
A new state law governing mopeds went into effect July 1 requiring owners to register with the DMV.
Virginia law requires moped drivers to be at least age 16; drivers and riders must wear a Virginia State Police-approved helmet. Drivers are also required to wear a face shield and add safety glasses or goggles if they are riding a moped that lacks a windshield.
State law also says that it is illegal to drive a moped if your driver’s license is suspended or revoked for convictions of DUI, underage consumption of alcohol, refusing a blood or breath test, or driving while on a suspended or revoked license for a DUI-related offense.
A bike is considered a motorcycle if it can go over 35 mph. Motorcycles are subject to a different set of regulations, including requiring a motorcycle endorsement on the driver’s operator license.
Mini-bikes, such as the one the Reston teen was driving in the May accident, have seat heights less than 24 inches high and are considered “motor-driven cycles.” They are not required to be registered with the state of have a license plate.
Those bikes are supposed to be for entertainment on private property and are not street-legal, Fairfax County Police said.
Officer Joseph Moore, instructor of the recent FCPS motorbike training, says that mini-bikes’ low line of sight — which may not be higher than the bumper of a car — make them especially dangerous on roadways.
“The best safety tip I can give you is be smart and be careful,” he said. “Keep in mind you are not as visible as you think you may be.”
Photo: Fairfax County Police undergo motorbike safety training/Credit: FCPD
See more information on new laws and safety tips in this FCPD video.