Moped rules and safety tips
For eight years, Kevin Shaw has used a moped to get to his job as a mechanic after losing his driver's license.
But if the bill that passed the House Thursday also passes the Senate, Shaw will have to find another way to get to his job on the Anderson and Greenville county line.
The House bill would require moped owners to register their moped, obtain liability insurance and would ban those who have lost their driver's license or had them suspended from driving mopeds.
"That's kind of crazy," said Shaw, who says walking to work takes him an hour and 20 minutes.
Some Upstate moped dealers expressed shock and anger over the bill, saying they knew nothing about it, and it would not only hurt their business but prevent many from using the vehicles to get to jobs or other places.
"If a moped cannot be driven by an unlicensed driver, I'll close my doors," said Lewis Young, who operates Upstate Scooters in Easley. "It will close my doors and I'm sure a lot of other moped dealers also. I haven't sold a moped to a licensed driver but one in six months."
Butch Stone, who operates City Scooterz in Williamston, said mopeds offer the only way a lot of his customers have to get to work. He said the bill would have a bad impact on many.
"A lot of them are riding these bikes because they can't afford a car and can't afford insurance," he said. "This is a bad deal all the way around."
Like the other dealers interviewed by The Greenville News, Gerald Jones, who operates Upstate Cycle in Greenville, said he knew nothing of the bill.
"I think it sucks, to be blunt," he said. "A lot of these guys depend on scooters for transportation to work. I can't believe they are doing this."
The bill that passed Thursday is one of many bills concerning mopeds that have been filed since last year, the result lawmakers say of increasing moped fatalities and complaints about their impact on traffic. Mopeds can only travel at a maximum of 30 mph and can back up vehicle traffic behind them, or force cars to try and pass, sometimes resulting in an accident with the moped.
Bills to increase the visibility of mopeds by requiring those riding them to wear reflective vests and to require mopeds to carry special lights have been filed as well but none have made it to law.
Law enforcement officials brought the idea for the bill, said Rep. Bill Crosby, a North Charleston Republican.
"They're all fed up," Cosby said of what law enforcement officers think of mopeds. "They are frustrated."
That's because unlike motorcycles or those who drive cars, moped operators do not fall under the state's traffic laws. Liability insurance is not required and even if they are drunk, they cannot be charged with DUI.
So many, in fact, have taken to mopeds after losing their driver's licenses because of DUIs, that mopeds have been nicknamed "liquorcycles" by some.
The House bill classifies mopeds as motor vehicles, requiring registration, insurance, operator's licenses and for drivers to follow all traffic laws.
A provision to limit mopeds to streets with speed limits no higher than 35 mph was cut from the bill, after opponents argued that moped owners sometimes need to cross highways where the speed limits are 55.
"It's going to save lives," Crosby said."We're having so many people on mopeds getting killed."
But not all in the House agreed. The bill received second reading by a vote of 67-41 on Wednesday.
Rep. Walton McLeod, a Newberry County Democrat, tried to delay a final vote of the bill Thursday but the House voted 52-43 to decide the matter then and approved the bill on a voice vote.
McLeod said he thinks the bill will do far more harm than good.
"Mopeds allow people to retain employment and earn a living for their family and remain productive citizens, he said, explaining why he opposes the bill. "If someone is unable to get to work and make a living, they immediately become candidates for public assistance."
Rep. Doug Brannon, a Landrum Republican and opponent of the bill, agrees.
"This bill will create another group of individuals who can't keep a job because they don't have transportation to work," he said. "It's taking food out of babies' mouths."
He said he has noticed 15-20 mopeds parked at a textile mill in his district.
"Those people are either without a driver's license or unable to afford a more expensive mode of transportation," he said. "It's not a necessary bill. They are not out there killing people. As far as I know, if you get in a wreck with a moped, it's the person on the moped getting hurt."
Cosby said the insurance requirement is because of wrecks in which moped drivers are uninsured. Brannon said he has no problem with requiring insurance. But he said classifying mopeds as motor vehicles will prevent many from being able to use one.
So far, the Senate has not shown an appetite to pass any moped bills. Several moped-related bills that originated in the Senate or the House have been sent to the Senate Transportation Committee, which has passed out just one.
That bill would simply include mopeds as motor vehicles but has been blocked on the Senate calendar.
Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who helped sponsor one of the moped bills last year, said he hopes the House bill will get a vote this year in the Senate.
"I'm very pleased they are moving that bill over to us," he said. "This is a huge step to get it out of the House and over to the Senate. I can't imagine we won't be taking it up at some point during the session."