NC House bill would require tags and insurance for mopeds

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2013 

— State law treats mopeds a lot like bicycles. Now, some legislators want to make moped riders get license plates and buy liability insurance.

State Rep. Phil Shepard said Tuesday he sympathizes with people who need the slow, low-power two-wheelers to get around. But he thinks they should be subject to more of the same regulations that affect other drivers on the road.

“If they’re going to be allowed to be there, I do think they should have a license tag and register with DMV, and also should have some insurance,” Shepard, a Republican from Jacksonville, told members of the House Transportation Committee. “Because if an accident or something occurs and they don’t have any insurance and it’s with you, then your insurance pays for it all.”

Mopeds are small scooters with engines no larger than 50ccs, and they legally can go no faster than 30 mph. Anyone age 16 or older can drive one without a driver’s license. Many people use mopeds to save money or because they’ve lost their licenses, often for driving while impaired.

Shepard’s bill would raise the moped driving age from 16 to 17 and bar drivers from carrying passengers. The owner would have to pay the state’s $18 motorcycle registration fee. Shepard said the cost of insurance would average $100 a year but could reach as high as $300 a year.

Sometimes mopeds are targeted by thieves or used in drug crimes, he said.

“We need to protect those on the highway that are law-abiding citizens and are paying gas taxes, that have not lost their licenses due to driving and drinking,” Shepard said.

The discussion was sidetracked when Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Republican from Wake County, proposed a requirement that moped riders stay on the right side of the lane, so they don’t block traffic. That’s a restriction that does not apply now to slow-moving bicycles. The committee delayed voting on Shepard’s proposal, which has 15 co-sponsors.

Shepard drew opposition from Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican from Sanford, who sold mopeds for two years and said he had learned a lot from his customers.

“These folks are trying to do right and put their life back together and move in the right direction,” Stone said. “Some people are looking for more regulations to make it tougher for some people, … and this is just one way that a guy who has nothing has an opportunity to get back to work. So the question is, do we want to kick a man that has nowhere else to go?

“I know this is probably a different perspective from a Republican,” Stone said. “But I would hope we would find some way not to have to support this bill.”

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

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