North Carolina will require registrations and license plates for mopeds starting in July, and some state leaders also want to require liability insurance and place new restrictions on who can drive the little scooters.
Kelly Thomas, the state motor vehicles commissioner, told a legislative committee Tuesday that mopeds and their drivers are subject to more regulation in most states than in North Carolina. He recommended legislation to:• Bar automobile drivers who have lost their licenses because of medical problems or impaired driving from operating a moped.
• Require a driver’s license or state-issued ID card for all moped operators.
• Require moped operators to carry liability insurance.
• Outlaw mopeds on roads where the posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour or faster. Under state law, mopeds are supposed to be incapable of speeds greater than 30 mph.
“Most (moped) fatalities are on higher-speed roads, and it’s kind of a no-brainer,” Thomas said. “A low-speed vehicle on a high-speed road will lose.”
Authorities reported 3,812 crashes involving mopeds from 2009 through 2013, including 115 fatal crashes. About one-third of these crashes and two-thirds of the deaths were on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or faster, according to state Department of Transportation crash statistics. Wake County led the state with 357 moped crashes, nine of them fatal.
Legislators said that requiring license plates for mopeds will help police with traffic enforcement. Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, said it also will help law enforcement keep track of “individuals who are operating these mopeds who are committing criminal activity.”
The new law requiring moped registration was enacted last year after the House rejected a Senate push for more extensive regulation, including a proposed insurance requirement. Some members of a joint House-Senate transportation oversight committee indicated Tuesday that they still think moped insurance – required in at least 19 other states, Thomas said – is a good idea here.
Thomas’ recommendation to bar impaired drivers from operating mopeds highlights a major factor in moped use. Drivers who lose their licenses often turn to mopeds as their only legal means of transportation.
Among 833 moped operators involved in crashes in 2013, the automobile driver licenses had been revoked or suspended for 374 of them – mostly for driving while impaired, according to a DMV analysis. Only 114 of these moped operators had active driver’s licenses.
“This is a tough issue,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, a Morganton Republican. “We all recognize the benefit of allowing people who have made mistakes to have some way to get to work.”
Daniel said he also worried that a move to outlaw mopeds on high-speed roads would mean barring them from all rural roads.