Changes Could Be Coming for Moped Riders

Thomas Jeter • March 24, 2016

Changes Could Be Coming for Moped Riders

According to a report published in The Post and Courier, South Carolina’s General Assembly is considering a bill that could bring significant changes that would affect untold numbers of moped operators throughout the state. The bill, principally sponsored by Republican Reps. Joe Daning of Goose Creek and William Crosby of North Charleston, would crack down on operating a moped while under the influence of alcohol and would create licensing and insurance requirements for the small vehicles.

A Sad Hodgepodge

Current laws regarding mopeds are described in the article as “a lax and confusing hodgepodge that essentially allow those riding motorized scooters with smaller engines to operate as freely as bicyclists.” What this means is that moped riders are not required to obtain a license to operate their small vehicles. They also aren’t mandated to carry insurance on their mopeds. Crosby recounted a story about a friend of his whose car was hit by a moped rider, lamenting, “[Moped operators] can have an accident, hit a car, and get up and run away. Nobody knows who the moped belongs to.”

According to State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, the General Assembly has debated several bills aimed at reforming moped regulations over the past six years. The current legislation is said to be a combination of many of the proposals contained in the previous failed bills. Sen. Grooms expressed hope that the current bill, which has already passed the House, will be able to survive opposition he expects it to face in the Senate. “It’s crazy that you could be drunk as a skunk and blow past a sitting Highway Patrolman,” Sen. Grooms said. “[The Patrolman] can’t do anything. That has to be fixed.”

Closing the Loopholes

The push to address these “loopholes” in existing moped rules is grounded in a desire to improve public safety, supporters say. Anecdotal evidence from law enforcement officials indicates that more people in the state are hitting the roads on mopeds every year. Accident data showed that a new record was set for moped fatalities in South Carolina last year.

The proposed legislation would provide for the citation of moped operators for driving under the influence. They would also be required to observe several new rules, including the following:

  • Mopeds must be state licensed and registered.
  • Riders must carry liability insurance.
  • Operators must stay in the rightmost lane of traffic unless turning left.
  • Riders are banned from roads with speed limits above 50 mph.

Far From a Done Deal

Despite the safety goals of the bill, its future is uncertain. Sen. John Scott, D-Columbia, remarked that it could face stiff challenges, particularly from representatives of rural areas, which he said are often highly dependent on mopeds for transportation, adding, “They may have never had a driver’s license.”