Loophole allows moped operators to drive drunk

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – A South Carolina State Senate panel recently moved to close a loophole in the law that allows moped operators to drive while intoxicated.

In South Carolina, a motor vehicle is defined as ‘every vehicle which is self propelled, except mopeds…’

“They’ve always left this exception either through neglect or maybe purposefully,” said Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

According to Richardson, it’s led to a loophole in the system that prevents mopeds from being subject to any traffic laws, including DUI’s.

“It is impossible in this day in age to get a driving under the influence, if you’re driving a moped,” he said.

Mopeds are often seen as the chosen form of transportation for with alcohol-related offenses, because the state allows people with suspended licenses to operate a moped.

Ray Walkiwicz had his license taken away after three DUI’s. He’s no longer allowed to drive a motor vehicle, instead he rides a moped.

“You’ve got to buy a moped license at the DMV then you’re fine,” said Walkiwicz.

MCPL Shannon Toole with Myrtle Beach Police said he occasionally encounters moped drivers who’ve been drinking. Toole said MBPD responded to approximately 120 moped crashes in 2014. Only one was fatal, but the incident report states the driver was ‘under the influence.’

Still, Toole said the biggest problem with mopeds isn’t drunk drivers.

“It’s the only vehicle in our state that is regulated based on the speed at which it can travel,” said Toole.

In South Carolina, a moped cannot go over 30 mph; however, the speed limit on most major highways is 55-60 mph.

“Any time you have a person driving half of the speed of everyone else, it’s going to be a problem,” said Richardson.

In an interview with News 13, Senator Greg Hembree called mopeds a ‘crisis’ in South Carolina. He said there is a lot of clean up that needs to happen with regard to moped regulation, but it starts with defining them as motor vehicles.

Hembree is currently co-sponsoring the bill that aims to close the loophole. He said the Transportation Committee is hearing testimony on a variety of topics relating to moped safety. Among them, requiring moped drivers to have insurance and registration, wear reflective vests or use strobe lights.

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