S.C. senators on Thursday passed a proposal that paves the way for police to charge drunken moped drivers with driving under the influence.
The bill — likely on its way to the S.C. House next week — also would require moped drivers to:
▪ Register with the Department of Motor Vehicles
▪ Follow the same traffic rules as other vehicles
▪ Wear a helmet if they are younger than 21
State senators struck a requirement that moped drivers wear reflective vests at night, which some called burdensome.
The proposal passed 39-0.
“In the larger picture, it was a small part to compromise on,” bill sponsor Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said of dropping reflective vests. “I’m thrilled that we’re finally to a place where we’re getting some common-sense regulations on these dangerous vehicles.”
Hembree, a former prosecutor, says his proposal is meant to curb the rising moped death toll on S.C. roads, which reached a five-year high in 2015. Its most important function, supporters say, is giving mopeds a clear definition under S.C. law.
That would ensure laws governing other motor vehicles also apply to the slow-moving scooters, popular among college students, poor S.C. residents and drivers who have lost their licenses.
“You can be on a moped stinking drunk, wave your beer at the highway patrolmen, and he can’t write you a ticket,” said state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “We want to fix that.”
The proposal also would raise the minimum legal age to drive a moped to 15 from 14. But it would not require moped drivers to carry insurance, a provision that could have doomed the bill, lawmakers have said.
Hembree said Thursday he wants to address that issue separately.
“I’m going to work on it this year,” Hembree said. “Whether I file it this year, I’m not sure. It’s hard to find that sweet spot.”