April 2, 2015

Moped safety bills before South Carolina legislature

The state House has passed a bill that would require not only moped riders to wear vests but also have flashing moped copyred tail lights on the moped. The bill passed the chamber last week and is now in Senate committee.

It’s one of 10 bills filed by legislators this session seeking a safety solution to moped accidents that have risen in recent years, injuring or killing hundreds annually.

“The biggest issue is people don’t see them,” Representative Mike Ryhal, R-Myrtle Beach and chief sponsor of the bill told the Greenville News. “They get up on them and before you know it, there is an accident.”

The House is also considering a separate bill that would bar mopeds from any roads with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour or higher.

The number of moped-related traffic deaths is increasing, however. State Department of Public Safety figures show 23 people died in moped accidents in 2013. Last year, that number increased by nearly 40 percent to were 32 moped fatalities. The number of moped crashes involving injuries did decline over the same span, from 677 to 581 incidents.

Moped drivers are not required to have a driver’s license or to carry liability insurance. Operators can be as young as 14 and even those with a suspended driver’s license are allowed to use mopeds for six months. Lawmakers have filed a number of bills to make moped use safer.

A bill by State Rep. Bill Crosby, R-North Charleston, would require mopeds to be registered and carry insurance. It would also ban drivers with a suspended license from using them. His bill also would keep them off any public road with a speed limit of more than 35 mph.

A bill by State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington; Sen. Greg Hembree R-Horry; and Sen. Larry Martin R-Pickens, would classify a moped as a motor vehicle for the purposes of insurance and registration.

Another bill by State Reps. David Hiott, R-Pickens, and Murrell Smith, R- Sumter, would ban mopeds from public highways and streets.

Dillard said she wants vests required because people just don’t see mopeds until it is too late. “It’s to protect everybody’s life out there,” she said.

 

Senators request audit into SCDOT as debate on gas tax increase continues

State Sen. Lee Bright (Image: SCETV)

State Sen. Lee Bright (Image: SCETV)

Half of the state Senate has signed a letter requesting an audit into how South Carolina’s highway department handles billions in funding it receives every year.

23 of the Senate’s 46 senators signed a letter last week asking the Legislative Audit Council to look into the finances at the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). Most of the signees were Democrats and those Republicans who are against increasing the state’s 17 cents per-gallon gas tax to pay for more road funding.

“With all the cries for more funding needed and, obviously our roads are in terrible shape and our bridges in ill repair, we wanted to at least find out what they’re doing with the money now,” lead requestor State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, told South Carolina Radio Network. “Find out where the opportunities are.” [Read more…]

Mercedes announces 1,300 new jobs at N. Charleston van plant

Gov. Nikki Haley makes a presentation to Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg (Image: SC Dept. of Commerce)

Gov. Nikki Haley makes a presentation to Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg (Image: SC Dept. of Commerce)

The parent company of Mercedes-Benz announced Friday it will build a new plant in Berkeley County, adding an estimated 1,300 jobs to its existing commercial van manufacturing operations in North Charleston.

Daimler AG announced the $500 million 8.6 million square-foot plant in a Friday morning ceremony. Gov. Nikki Haley and other political dignitaries were among those in attendance. Work on the plant will begin next year, the company said.

“This plant is key to our future growth in the very dynamic North American van market,” Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg said in a statement. “Charleston is an excellent location for our new plant. The region has very highly-skilled workers, a dense network of reliable suppliers, and an outstanding logistics infrastructure that includes good transport connections to the nearby harbor.”

The plant will produce the next generation of Mercedes Sprinter vans at the new site near its existing assembly plant in Ladson. The company has been at the site north of Charleston since 2005. The existing site assembles vans from parts manufactured and shipped from Germany. The new location will allow Mercedes to manufacture in North America, the announcement said.

“Half a billion dollars invested in South Carolina. 1,300 jobs. That is worthy of another applause,” Gov. Haley said during Friday’s ceremony.

Besides the Sprinter, the Mercedes-Benz Vans division will also add the Metris series of medium-sized vans to its product range in the U.S.

Daimler received a $14 million Closing Fund grant from the Department of Commerce to help the company with property improvements. The state also offered job development tax credits.

Jay Harper contributed to this report

SC House debating moped ban on roads with 45 MPH speed limit

State Rep. Alan Clemmons (File)

State Rep. Alan Clemmons (File)

Lawmakers in the South Carolina House of Representatives this week are expected to continue debate on a bill that would place new restrictions on mopeds in South Carolina.

H.3412 would require moped drivers to wear a reflective vest and have a red flashing taillight. But the most controversial part of the bill would ban mopeds from driving on roads with a speed limit above 45 miles per hour.

State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, says it’s a safety issue. “Since 2011, there have been 128 moped deaths in South Carolina,” he said on the House floor last week. “A full one-third of those happened on roads with a greater than 45 miles-per-hour speed limit.”

But opponents have been holding up the bill in a verbal floor fight. State Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Little Mountain, questioned why mopeds are being targeted and not bikes or tractors which move at even slower speeds. “I don’t doubt that some accidents are caused by mopeds, but are we going to outlaw bicycles (on these roads)?” he asked rhetorically. “What about cotton pickers?”

[Read more…]

Funeral scheduled for SCDOT worker killed while patching potholes

Paul fee (Image: SCDOT)

Paul Fee (Image: SCDOT)

Funeral services have been set for a South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) worker who was killed by a hit-and-run driver Friday night.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office said 56-year-old Paul Fee of Winnsboro died early Saturday morning at a nearby hospital. The driver later turned himself in, troopers say.

A funeral is planned for 1:00 p.m. Thursday at St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Winnsboro.

The Highway Patrol said Fee was working with a crew patching up potholes on the Farrow Road bridge over Interstate 77 when he was struck by a pickup around 8:30 p.m. Friday. The pickup driver fled the scene on foot but later turned himself in to Richland County Sheriff’s deputies, troopers say. The driver was identified as 59-year-old Ray Pickett. He is facing one charge of hit-and-run resulting in death.

Pickett has a previous conviction for DUI in 2007, according to Richland County court records. The records state he was sentenced to 30 days and fined $992. Pickett was also convicted of driving under suspension in 2012 and sentenced to time served. He pleaded guilty to another charge of disorderly conduct at around the same time, according to his criminal history.

Fee had spent the past eight years working at SCDOT, according to an agency spokesman. He worked as a Trade Specialist in the agency’s Richland County maintenance office and was acting as crew leader for hot mix asphalt patching operations at the time of the collision.