As moped sales increase, laws need review

File/Staff

Mo-peds do everything that motorcycles do, but more slowly. And, unfortunately, with fewer restrictions.

Despite efforts to bring South Carolina up to speed, the Legislature has so far failed to address some shortcomings in state law.

Mo-ped users enjoy exemptions from laws that other motorists must follow.

For example, a person whose driver’s license has been suspended for six months or less may drive a scooter without a license during the suspension.

Someone whose driving warrants such a suspension doesn’t need to be operating a mo-ped any more than a car.

A sensible bill before the Legislature would apply DUI laws to mo-ped operators. Of course they should not be driving while intoxicated.

But other flaws should be considered, too. In South Carolina, a person who is 14 can operate a mo-ped. That’s too young to drive a car, and it is too young to drive a mo-ped.

Mo-peds don’t have to be registered, and don’t require a license tag. Why not? They are driven on streets and roads just as cars, trucks and motorcycles are.

To drive a mo-ped in Washington, D.C., you must have a driver’s license with a motorized bicycle endorsement. Mo-ped owners also must have a title and a registration and must display plates. They are required to carry a liability insurance policy. And all riders must wear helmets and eye protection.

In South Carolina, mo-ped operators who are under the age of 21 must wear helmets. At least that makes sense.

The price of gas and the struggling economy have convinced more drivers to park their cars and use mo-peds. They are far less expensive to buy and get as much as 100 miles per gallon. Some run on electricity, not gas.

Tuesday’s tragic accident at the corner of King and Line streets, which resulted in the death of a 57-year-old licensed moped driver, was not his fault. Police say he was abiding by the laws of the road.

But the accident does focus attention on mo-ped accident statistics. In 2010, The Post and Courier reported, there were 42 injuries and two fatalities in Charleston County; 14 injuries and one fatality in Berkeley County; and eight injuries and no fatalities in Dorchester County. Perhaps some of those deaths and injuries could have been avoided with more sensible laws.

Mo-peds are said to be too slow to follow and too fast to pass.

But they are legal, and the law should regulate them just as it does other motor vehicles.