For computer science sophomore Jonathan Granier, living life on the edge was part of his daily commute last semester. Granier, who was leasing a moped at the time, drove to his classes without a motorcycle license.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, this commute could have resulted in up to $300 in fines — three $100 charges — because it is illegal to operate a moped without a driver’s license motorcycle endorsement. Dustin Farahnak, UT Police Department officer, said students driving these vehicles without the required class M endorsement is a common occurrence across West Campus.
“You do need a license to drive a moped,” Farahnak said. “For some reason, perhaps because of the cost savings of a moped, we often see drivers not caught up on their license, insurance or registration.”
If a motor-driven cycle can break 30 mph, generate more than two horsepower or exceed 50 cc, it is classified as a motorcycle and requires a class M license endorsement to operate, according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Farahnak said students regularly fail to get the necessary endorsement before driving their mopeds because it is expensive and time-consuming. Violators caught driving without the endorsement can be charged with driving without a license, Farahnak said.
“A lot of it is a financial thing,” Farahnak said. “They don’t realize how easy it is to get your vehicle registered, to get your license, to take the classes you need to take, and they feel overwhelmed by their studies.”
Granier said he originally planned on getting a license until he realized how lengthy the process was.
“It just seemed like a lot of work and no one really cares,” Granier said. “The dude that I leased it from said not many people end up getting a license and he hasn’t heard of anyone getting in trouble in West Campus for it.”
In the past 60 days, UTPD has reported only one incident of driving without a license. Farahnak said he attributes this low number of reports to the police force’s concern for safety.
“Those who are operating mopeds unsafely around West Campus are often committing several other offenses, such as no insurance, expired registration and lacking that class-M endorsement,” Farahnak said in an email. “I would not stack every one of these charges on a citation. My first priority is the unsafe driving itself, such as wrong way driving, running stop signs and intoxication.”
Mark Sze-To is a co-owner of Electric Avenue Scooters, an Austin-based moped dealer and DPS-sponsored administrator of motorcycle license courses. Sze-To said motorcycle courses in Texas range from $180 to $250 and take about one weekend to complete.
“It’s a very good investment because it’s cheaper than crashing and it’s certainly cheaper than dying,” Sze-To said. “Statistically speaking, one is three times safer or less likely to crash if they have a motorcycle license versus if they do not.”
But Granier said the insecurity of not having the proper license led him to be more cautious on his moped.
“I drove a little safer because I didn’t have a license,” Granier said. “I was scared if I got pulled over it would be a big deal, so I would never speed or do anything stupid.”