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?”
He argued many people use a moped to get to work because they do not own a car . McLeod said many rural roads that could be a person’s only route home would suddenly be off-limits.
A majority of state legislators have tried for years to place stricter requirements on mopeds, which are not technically “motor vehicles,” under state law. That means a person does not need a license to drive a moped and state law does not allow a driver to be charged with DUI for operating one while under the influence (House leaders say that is being addressed in a separate bill). It is often the vehicle of choice for those who have had their driver’s license suspended. Several previous versions of the bill have cleared the House the last few years, only to have it die in the Senate where the rules give opponents more procedural power.
Clemmons argued that he felt mopeds should not be driving along roads where the rest of traffic is driving 20-to-30 miles per hour faster. We all know that these are slow-moving vehicles. They do not travel at 55 miles per hour. They do not travel at 45 miles per hour,” he said. “They are slow-moving and that inherently makes them dangerous in a high-speed environment.”
But State Rep. Mac Toole, R-West Columbia, thought the legislation was an overreach. “I don’t understand why this body wants to regulate everything to death,” he said during last week’s debate.
The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ryhal, R-Myrtle Beach.