South Carolina House members approved legislation Tuesday that would tighten the restrictions on mopeds in South Carolina — although not as severely as was originally proposed.
The measure approved in a 75-29 vote would require moped drivers to have a license, wear reflective vests at night and for drivers under 21 to wear a helmet, among other changes. However, it would not require they carry insurance. But State Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, said the fact that mopeds would now be classified as “motor vehicles” under state law would help anyone injured by an uninsured moped have an easier time collecting insurance payouts.
“Since they’re on the road, just like you and I, we should make them susceptible to the same laws you and I have to follow,” Daning said on the floor Tuesday.
In a late amendment, legislators removed language that would have barred mopeds on roads with a speed limit higher than 45 miles per hour. Instead the amendment raised the limit to 55 miles per hour. Amendment sponsor State Rep. Roger Kirby, D-Florence said, while mopeds cannot reach those speeds, drivers in rural communities may not have a choice but to use routes with a 55-mph speed limit.
“I can’t get out of my driveway without turning on to a 55 mph road,” he said. “So that would preclude me from doing anything but riding it around my house.”
Opponents noted moped drivers are usually forced to use the lighter, slower method of travel because they either cannot afford a car or have lost their license.
The measure needs another procedural vote before it heads to the Senate, which approved a similar bill in January that did not require the reflective vests. Republicans have sought for years to tighten the state’s largely-unregulated moped laws, believing the vehicles should be treated more as motorcycles. But opponents — tending to be Democratic or more libertarian-leaning lawmakers (although many other also support the legislation) — say mopeds are often the only way poorer individuals can travel to work.
A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley last year, calling the vest requirement “government overreach.”