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South Carolina House passes bill requiring moped drivers to carry licenses and face traffic enforcement

By Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — People all over South Carolina who are driving mopeds may soon be required to have a license and follow traffic laws.

The S.C. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would require moped drivers to either have a valid drivers license or a separate moped exclusive license.

The legislation, which follows an accompanying bill passed by the Senate in January, would also ensure that police have the ability to enforce traffic laws for people traveling on mopeds.
The state law regulating mopeds had been criticized in the past because it was said that cops couldn’t enforce traffic violations for moped drivers, even if they were driving drunk. It caused some people to jokingly refer to mopeds as “liquorcycles.”

This isn’t the first time a bill aimed at regulating mopeds in South Carolina has come up. Last year, then-Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed similar legislation, labeling the bill “government overreach.”

This time around, House lawmakers passed the bill with a 75-29 vote. Rep. Neal Collins, R-Easley, one of the bill’s sponsors, called it a “good compromise.”

Lawmakers voting for the bill are hopeful it will improve the safety aspect for moped drivers and other people on the roadway.

People trying to obtain a moped license from the state Department of Motor Vehicles will have to be at least 15 years old under the law, and the legislation requires all moped operators to wear a reflective vest when they are on the roads during the evening.

Rep. Joseph Daning, R-Goose Creek, another sponsor, said the requirement for the reflective vest may be one of the most important parts of the bill when it comes to preventing accidents or deaths on the roadways.

There were other portions of the bill, however, that prompted some lawmakers to cast a vote against it.

Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, had been in support of many key parts of the legislation, but cast a vote against the bill because it doesn’t require moped operators to obtain automotive insurance.

Smith said requiring licenses for moped users and allowing police to hold moped drivers accountable if they are, say, caught drinking and driving, was beneficial, but he thought the insurance requirement was essential, too.

“I was not looking for the perfect bill,” Smith said, “but that fell very short.”

The requirement for moped drivers to have insurance, Daning said, had been defeated in the past.

“We couldn’t get it out last year that way, so I didn’t see any reason to argue that point this year,” he said.

Under the new bill, Daning said any damage caused during an accident between a moped and a car could now be covered by the car owner’s insurance, without any additional cost or premium increases.

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