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With Moped Law Under Scrutiny, South Carolina Businesses Get a Wake-Up Call

Businesses that sell or rent mopeds and employees who rely on the two-wheeled transportation for work dodged a bullet last year when a proposed South Carolina law on moped restrictions didn't make its way through the state Legislature. Nevertheless, the proposal's goals should serve as a wake-up call for South Carolina businesses to take appropriate action to protect their employees, assets, and the community.

Last year, the South Carolina Legislature considered Bill H3440 that would have made substantial changes to South Carolina moped law but it ultimately failed to pass. Similar moped regulations have been proposed again this year.

The popularity of mopeds is easy to understand. They’re generally priced under $1,000, get great gas mileage, and are convenient to park. Also, moped operators aren’t required to maintain insurance and a person only has to be 14 to obtain a moped operator’s license.

But when a moped traveling at 30 mph shares the road with other vehicles, safety concerns mount. Most drivers have had the frustrating experience of being held up in a line of traffic behind a moped as cars attempt to pass. At night, mopeds also can be difficult to see, which can lead to fatal accidents. 

South Carolina has 780 moped-involved traffic collisions on average each year, according to the state Department of Public Safety. There have been more than 207 moped accident deaths in South Carolina since 2010.  As moped accidents and deaths increase, lawmakers have pushed for changes to the law to protect moped drivers and drivers of other vehicles.

Under South Carolina’s current moped law, an individual who has had his or her driver’s license suspended for six months or less is not required to obtain a license to operate a moped during the period of suspension. As alternative transportation for someone who may have had a DUI, mopeds often are referred to as “liquorcycles.” 

Also, a moped driver cannot be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances under current law because South Carolina Code Section 56-5-130 specifically exempts mopeds from the definition of a motor vehicle.

Legislation proposed last year as Bill H3440 would have allowed police to charge drunken moped drivers and would have prohibited mopeds from operating on roads with a speed limit over 55 mph, with the exception of crossing a road, where the cross-road’s speed limit is above 55 mph. In addition, moped drivers would have been required to:

  • Register with the Department of Motor Vehicles,
  • Wear a helmet and reflective vest if younger than 21, and
  • Be at least 15 years old, up from the current legal minimum age of 14.

An early version of last year’s bill would have required moped drivers to carry liability insurance, but that was removed from a later version of the bill. The newly proposed regulations this year are similar to last year’s proposals, but the reflective vest requirement is not included. There also does not appear to be a prohibition against operating on roads with a speed limit over 55 mph.

Proponents have argued that tougher laws are necessary to protect drivers and reduce the number of moped-involved traffic collisions and deaths. Opponents have criticized the legislation as government overreach and questioned how it would affect individuals who rely on mopeds for transportation and businesses that sell mopeds. 

As moped accidents and deaths continue to rise, lawmakers likely will continue to attempt to find the appropriate balance between promoting safety and allowing mopeds to remain on the roads by making various changes to the law.

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