Street Legal: Rhode Island Approves AutoCycles for Street Use Without Motorcycle License

Autocycles are a mix between a car and a motorcycle, offering more stability than a motorcycle, and leaving a smaller environmental footprint than many automobiles. As these three-wheeled vehicles are slowly introduced into urban areas as a fuel-efficient city vehicle, state and federal transportation planners are wrestling with how to classify them, as well as what motor vehicle laws should apply to the drivers. Rhode Island lawmakers recently passed legislation stating that drivers of autocycles are not required to have a motorcycle license or to wear a helmet. Some are concerned about the safety factor and the risks for autocycle accidents and injuries.

What Is An Autocycle?

Some autocycles are designed with an enclosed driver compartment and a steering wheel, while others have a more open design like a motorcycle. According to a Providence Journal article, the three-wheeled vehicles have been around for several decades, but only recently gained attention. They are touted for their fuel efficiency and low price tag, which runs in the vicinity of $8,000 for a base model. Some states currently have them classified as motorcycles. Autocycle lobbyists have been pushing to have them re-classified as a regular vehicle, which should help address any concerns that potential purchasers might have about owning a motorcycle or riding without a helmet.

Rhode Island Autocycle Laws

Despite not having rolled out any models as of yet, Elio Motors has been one of the most vocal advocates of overturning autocycle laws that categorize them as motorcycles. The company has taken more than 55,000 pre-sale reservations and is aggressively pursuing autocycle laws that would classify the three wheelers as a whole new class of vehicle. According to Elios, 41 states now offer exemptions that do not require autocycle drivers to have a motorcycle helmet or to obtain a special motorcycle license—Rhode Island being the latest state to join the list.

Pros and Cons of Autocycles

Autocycle features listed by Elios Motors claim the vehicles offer drivers distinct advantages compared to owning a regular car or motorcycle. These features include:
  • Great fuel economy;
  • High manufacturer safety standards;
  • American made design and engineering; and
  • Lower cost investment.
While driving a three wheeler may be more stable than riding a motorcycle, the autocycle’s design and lack of helmet requirements could present a greater risk of injuries in autocycle accidents, both for Rhode Island residents as well as visitors to the state who might consider renting one while they are here. Among the potential safety concerns are:
  • Their small size could make them less visible to other motorists;
  • The light overall construction and lighter weight provide less protection than a full-sized automobile; and
  • Drivers who are not wearing motorcycle helmets may be at greater risk of head trauma if an autocycle accident occurs.

Contact Our Rhode Island Accident Lawyers Today

If you or someone you care about is injured in a car, motorcycle, or autocycle accident caused by another motorist, contact Marasco & Nesselbush today. Our experienced accident lawyers will answer your questions and are ready to provide the aggressive legal representation you need to seek the compensation you deserve. Contact our office online for a confidential consultation.

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