Mulling Over South Carolina Moped Laws
Did Santa leave a moped at your house this year? These motor bikes have become increasingly popular forms of transportation for adults as gas prices have soared. Kids love ‘em because, under South Carolina moped laws, they can enjoy the freedom of the road at only 14 years of age. And DUI offenders are grateful to be able to operate a vehicle which doesn’t require a driver’s license, insurance or payment of property taxes or fees.
Some or all of this could change in South Carolina if legislators are successful in amending moped laws this year. The first regular session of the 121st South Carolina General Assembly will convene on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Over the last two weeks, hundreds of bills have been pre-filed in the House and Senate, several of which seek to strengthen the regulation of mopeds.
SC Moped Laws
A moped is defined under South Carolina law as “a cycle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power or without pedals and with a motor of not more than fifty cubic centimeters which produces not to exceed two brake horsepower and which is not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed in excess of thirty miles an hour on level ground. If an internal combustion engine is used, the moped must have a power drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.”
While the definition refers to 30 mph, moped riders in South Carolina may not go faster than 25 mph. They are, however, allowed to ride on any of the state’s public highways and streets (but not interstates).
One of the pre-filed bills for 2015 is H. 3003, sponsored by Rep. David Hiott of Pickens County. This measure would ban mopeds from highways and streets of the Palmetto State. Even Hiott is skeptical that the bill will pass, especially in light of the fact that previous efforts to toughen South Carolina’s moped laws have failed. Last year the House passed a bill that would have required moped riders to wear reflective vests and carry insurance and mandated that mopeds have flashing red lights when in operation. The effort died in the Senate, however.
Other pre-filed bills for the 2015 legislative session would require mopeds to be registered and have insurance and would require riders to wear safety yellow reflective vests.
Why are the state’s lawmakers repeatedly tackling the issue of moped regulation? Because as the number of these vehicles on the road has increased, so have the injuries and fatalities in moped-related accidents. Last year, there were 632 moped accidents in South Carolina, with 28 moped riders killed, according to WSPA of Spartanburg. So far in 2014, there have been 640 moped crashes, and in 90% of the accidents the driver or rider was injured.
Between 2008 and 2012, the annual number of moped deaths in South Carolina tripled. In fact, only North Carolina has more annual moped fatalities than South Carolina.
Only time will tell whether SC lawmakers will be able to reach common ground next year to reduce the number of moped deaths here. In the meantime, we urge moped riders of any age to drive defensively, wear a helmet and protective clothing, and call the Louthian Law Firm if a distracted or negligent driver causes an accident on one of the state’s highways or roads – on which mopeds are currently allowed.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.