A bill that has been pre-filed in the South Carolina General Assembly for 2012 would require moped drivers to start carrying a license, insurance, and begin paying property taxes on their vehicle.
“I’m a ‘not putting-more-government-on-anything’ kind of guy,” state Rep. Chip Huggins (R-Columbia) said, “But when you’ve got something like this… we do need to probably look at it.”
The bill could be taken up once the legislature returns to session in January. Rep. Chris Murphy (R-Summerville) is a co-sponsor.
Law enforcement officials have complained that, because mopeds are not treated the same as other vehicles, they are often used by drivers whose licenses have been suspended.
It is also difficult to track mopeds which instead of license plates carry tags labeled “MOPED.”
Huggins says he is also worried from a legal standpoint about uninsured moped drivers who cause an accident. “(This bill) treats them as another moving vehicle very similar to what motorcycles are required to do.”
The number of mopeds is increasing in South Carolina. Many owners prefer the lighter vehicles because they get better gas mileage and have less maintenance costs than cars. However, the growing number of mopeds also means a growing number of run-ins with other vehicles.
“I think it’s something that needs to be done,” said Chris Alex, who runs the Super Cycles & Scooters store in Myrtle Beach. Super Cycles sells some mopeds, but focuses more on scooters and motorcycles.
However, Alex also said state lawmakers need to allow mopeds to have larger engines. Right now, South Carolina regulations do not allow a moped to run faster than 30 miles per hour. He said that makes them dangerous for both the driver and other cars on the road.
He said his customers constantly ask him for ways to make the mopeds faster, “They get in situations where they almost get run over and killed,” he said, “So they try to figure out ways to make them faster at the risk of getting a ticket. If I was in their shoes, I would do the same thing.”
Huggins said he’s open to changing the bill, “My main intention here is to bring some awareness to this and to see what we can do to solve some of the issues here.”
The bill would also allow moped drivers 14 and older to carry a beginners permits. Drivers could get a restricted license at age 15-and-a-half.