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Mopeds and motorcycles: The same or different on Wisconsin roads?

Motorcycles are a really efficient, fun and safe way to get from here to there all across Wisconsin. Some people don't understand the appeal. Others find them exciting to ride. When it comes to accidents, however, there's no question that the vulnerability of open riding increases the risk of serious injury. The same can be said for mopeds.

A moped is a motor vehicle with the engine as an integral part of the vehicle. The engine must be 50 cubic centimeters or less in size with an automatic transmission. If it has fully operating pedals, it must be no more than 130 CCs. Modern mopeds generally don't have pedals and are considered to be like small motorcycles.

Mopeds are legal on public roads and are subject to all traffic laws as any motorized vehicle is. Riding a moped is legal on any roadway other than a freeway or a road where it is posted as prohibited. As with a motorcycle, you can't ride one on sidewalks or on the shoulder of a roadway. They are entitled to a single lane for travel, but they must operate only in the right lane of a double-lane roadway except to turn left. It's not unusual for other drivers to make dangerous choices if they are traveling behind a slow-moving moped, even though the cyclist is entitled to use that lane. They can be held liable if an accident is caused.

Wisconsin doesn't require moped operators to wear a helmet. Federal emission standards apply, and brakes, lights and turn signals are required. Unlike motorcycle law, mopeds don't have to use a headlight during daylight hours.

A very real difference between motorcycles and mopeds surfaces when one considers safety. A moped rider is even more vulnerable. The state Department of Transportation reports that despite the fairly slow speed at which they travel, moped operators commonly suffer head injuries if an accident happens. Understanding the differences between vehicles and applicable laws is an important part of any personal injury case.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Transportation, "Mopeds" accessed Feb. 05, 2015

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