With gasoline now nearing - and sometimes above - $4 a gallon in Carson City, some might be considering light motor bikes as an alternative mode of transportation.
And with Carson City schools letting out for the summer, many young people are expected to travel city streets using these mopeds, scooters and pocket bikes because they use very little gas and are a fun way to tool around.
The Carson City Sheriff's Department, however, wants to remind young and old alike that if you do not have a valid driver's license, you should not be driving these two-wheelers.
"Scooters, go-peds and pocket bikes are motor vehicles. A motor vehicle is self-propelled. This includes a moped. The question of lawful use is often raised due to scooters, go-peds, pocket bikes and mopeds being 49cc and under," said Sgt. Mike Cullen.
"All operators of any motor vehicle on a roadway must have a valid driver's license."
He offered the following guidelines:
• Scooters, go-peds, mopeds and pocketbikes 49cc or less do not have to be registered, thus no insurance is required. Riders are exempt from having to wear head protection and protective eye wear.
• All scooters, go-peds and mopeds must have footrests for passengers, a seat, proper handlebars, head and tail lamps, stop lamps, reflectors, horn, mirrors, muffler.
• Mopeds are defined as a vehicle that looks and handles essentially like a bicycle and propelled by pedaling or a small engine producing no more than two-gross brake horsepower and has a displacement of not more than 50cc. It should not be capable of a speed greater than 30 mph.
• At no time shall these vehicles be driven on a sidewalk.
• If your vehicle is more than 49cc, it does not fall under these guidelines and is considered a motor vehicle. As such, it is required to be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and must have insurance.
• Any vehicle sold for off-road use only is just that - for off-road use only. Generally pocket bikes, or miniature motorcycles, may look like they are intended for street use but are designed for closed course and off-road use, and not for street use.
• A motorcycle or moped shall not be driven upon a highway while carrying more than one person unless such motorcycle or moped is designed by the manufacturer to carry more than one person.
• A person shall not drive a motorcycle or moped unless the wheels are protected by fenders to prevent the throwing of rocks, dirt, water or other substances to the rear.
The following penalties apply if a citation is issued for violations related to the use of these vehicles:
• Driving without a valid driver's license: $187
• Driving on a revoked license: $500
• No rearview mirror: $67
• No horn: $67
• No taillights: $67
• Riding on the sidewalk: $67
"If you are an unlicensed driver don't ride any of these vehicles on the street, period," said Cullen. "A lot of parents buy them for their kids that are 13 and 14 years old, and they are unlicensed drivers. If they get caught they are going to get the vehicles towed and a citation, which the parents are responsible for."
Drivers putting less gas in tank, then running out
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press Writer
Brent Saba had just dropped a church group off at Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday morning and was heading north on Interstate 95 when it happened: His 15-passenger van ran out of gas.
Saba, a 24-year-old church pastor, made it to the shoulder just past the Ben Franklin Bridge and waited more than 30 minutes for someone to stop and lend him a cell phone. Then he waited a while longer for AAA to arrive with fuel.
With gas prices hovering at $4 a gallon, motorists like Saba are putting less fuel in their tanks - then coming up empty on the highway.
Though national statistics on out-of-gas motorists don't exist, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that drivers unwilling or unable to fill 'er up are gambling by keeping their tanks extremely low on fuel. In the Philadelphia area, where the average price for a gallon of regular broke $4 on Friday, calls from out-of-gas AAA members doubled between May 2007 and May 2008, from 81 to 161, the auto club reported.
"The number one reason is they can't stretch their money out from week to week," said Gary Siley, the AAA mobile technician who helped Saba.
"Some of them are embarrassed. ... They say, 'I was trying to make it till Friday,' and they couldn't do it," said Siley, who has assisted numerous out-of-gas motorists.
Saba blames himself for not paying enough attention to the fuel gauge, saying he doesn't normally let the tank get so low. But he said the spiraling cost of gas has led the church to reduce its use of the fuel-guzzling van.
And when he does get gas, he puts in only a half-tank.
"If the prices were lower, I'd probably just fill it up," Saba said.
Research from The Nielsen Co. shows that drivers have been making more frequent trips to the pump but limiting how much they put in the tank.
Convenience stores, which sell about 80 percent of the nation's gas, are seeing fewer fill-ups, said industry spokesman Jeff Lenard.
"When the pump hits a certain dollar amount now, you're seeing more customers stop," said Lenard, with the National Association of Convenience Stores. "They're purchasing fewer gallons."
And that means playing Russian roulette with the gas gauge.
In Dallas, Courtesy Patrol - a roadside assistance program operated by the sheriff's department - reports a doubling in the number of daily fuel calls from stranded motorists in recent months. Sheriff Lupe Valdez herself recently came to the aid of a mother and her two children who had run out of gas along an interstate.
In some cases, motorists have gotten stuck in the middle of the highway, creating a dangerous situation, said Lonnie Lankford, a Courtesy Patrol shift leader. "It's just breaking the backs of the people, these gas prices," he said.
Transportation officials in Oregon and Tennessee also report increasing numbers of stranded motorists in need of gas.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, which has nearly 4 million members in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, reported a 15 percent year-over-year increase in calls from members with empty tanks.
"We're seeing a lot of frustrated motorists who are trying to cut corners, and this is one way they're doing it," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Catherine Rossi. "But they're shooting themselves in the foot, or the wallet, in the long run."
That's because perpetually running on fumes can damage a car's fuel pump - requiring repairs that make a full tank of $4 gas seem like a bargain.
As for Saba, he was just thankful he made it back to North Philadelphia in time for his 11:30 a.m. church service.
"What I was thinking to myself was, at least the weather's nice," he said. "It was beautiful outside and that made things a lot better."