By Robert Kittle
Two bills prefiled in the South Carolina House would put new safety rules on mopeds in South Carolina.
One bill would require all moped riders to wear reflective vests. It would also require all mopeds sold in the state to have red flashing tail lights that flash constantly while the moped is in use.
Rep. Bill Whitmire, R-Walhalla, filed the bill after an experience driving home a few months ago. He was in the right lane of a four-lane highway when he came up on a moped that had a very dim tail light. He didn't see the moped until the last minute, but couldn't get in the left lane because another car was passing him, so all he could do was slam on the brakes.
"I think there's been between 90 and a hundred deaths in the last few years of moped drivers, so that's my main focus for this," he says. The state Department of Public Safety says 92 moped riders have been killed in South Carolina in the last three years.
Columbia moped dealer Justin Clark doesn't think the reflective vests will do much to protect riders, though. "If you see somebody in a reflective vest, you have to get right up on them to actually see it to start with. That's basically too little too late, in my opinion," he says.
"Now the flashing red light, I agree with that a lot. I like that whole idea. I think it'll bring attention a lot more, just like a cop car or an ambulance. You're going to see that coming at you or pulling up on it. That's going to catch your attention a lot more than just a regular tail light on a moped," he says.
Rep. Whitmire says Clark may have a point about reflective vests not doing a lot, but adds, "Hey, if you save one life with a reflective vest then I think it's worth it."
The second prefiled bill would not allow mopeds on roads with speed limits higher than 45 miles per hour. By state law, mopeds aren't supposed to go any faster than 25 mph, so a moped on a road with cars going 55 can be dangerous.
State lawmakers go back into session in January. By prefiling bills in December, those bills get assigned to committee and are ready for debate faster.