Close moped DUI loophole

Moped accidents - like this one in 2012 on King Street - are on the rise in South Carolina, sparking a series of bills in the state legislature to improve safety. (File/Staff)

Mopeds have traditionally been a vehicle of choice for South Carolinians with licenses suspended for driving under the influence. Apparently they are also an option for anyone who would like to continue to drive while drinking, since mopeds aren’t legally considered motor vehicles and thus aren’t covered by DUI law.

That’s a dangerous legal loophole, and a current legislative effort to close it deserves broad support.

The state Senate Transportation Committee will soon review a bill clarifying that mopeds are in fact motor vehicles. They do, after all, have motors. Calling mopeds motor vehicles would also require that riders have a driver’s license.

Most importantly, it would subject drivers to the same DUI laws as cars and motorcycles.

Even though mopeds can only legally reach top speeds of about 35 mph on flat roads, they are still moving vehicles operating on the same roadways as everyone else. And drinking can impair a moped driver just as much as any other kind of driver, to the risk of everyone on the road.

That risk is already substantial even when alcohol isn’t part of the equation. Thirty-three moped drivers were killed in South Carolina last year alone, and the number of deaths has been increasing for years.

Wearing helmets could also dramatically reduce the risk of fatal injury, and separate bills in the state Legislature would require moped drivers to use helmets and reflective vests.

Other bills address where and on what type of roads mopeds can be used, whether or not moped riders should be required to carry insurance and similar concerns.

But while those potentially safety-enhancing bills deserve consideration, closing the DUI loophole should be a no-brainer. South Carolina roads are no place for people who have had too much to drink, no matter what kind of vehicle they drive.