South Carolina’s eight trauma centers treated 510 mo-ped injuries in a year and a half – 26 of the injured died – at an estimated cost of $27 million. The medical centers received total reimbursement of $4.5 million.
“So the taxpayers are on the hook,” says S.C. Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River.
The gap in recovery of costs, for 18 months in 2014 and 2015, illustrates one of the concerns of everyday motorists as well as law enforcement folks around the state – about making mo-peds subject to the traffic codes.
Hembree, previously the longtime solicitor for Horry and Georgetown counties, is again working as a senator for passage of legislation that will regulate those pesky mo-peds like other motor vehicles. It is astounding to understand that the two-wheelers, and their drivers, currently are completely unregulated by South Carolina. Perhaps the extreme example, cited by Hembree and others, is the inability of police to issue traffic citations to intoxicated mo-ped operators because they are not covered by the traffic code.
If this has a feeling of deja vu, we have indeed been here before. Last year, the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved comprehensive legislation regulating mo-peds, but Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the measure. Why? Haley’s reason perhaps was related to something other than a concern about requiring mo-ped operators to wear reflective vests. The vests cost $4.50. Whatever, late in the legislative session, the House overrode Haley’s ridiculous action, but time ran out in the waning hours of the session and the Senate did not vote on an override.
So, legislators started again in January as the new session started. Hembree filed what is largely the same measure approved in 2016, and that has been unanimously passed by the Senate. Third and final reading was on Jan. 31. Hembree says there was not much debate on second reading, the part of the legislative process where there is discussion, proposed changes in wording and so forth. Third readings typically are formalities.
A companion bill in the House has received a favorable report in committee and further action is scheduled on March 21. The Senate bill does not require protective vests.
“I’m in favor of reflective vests,” Hembree says.
He anticipates that the House version might include vests. Requiring a blinking light on mo-peds is another option as regulation makes its way through the House. Differences in House and Senate measures would be worked out in a conference committee.
The Senate version limits mo-peds to highways with 55 miles-per-hour or lower speed limits, which Hembree says is a concession to legislators representing non-urban areas.
“The case was made that in rural areas a 55-mph road may be the only road,” Hembree says.
Eventually, cities and counties should be able to determine roads which mo-peds may use. This is a detail that should not stand in the way of regulating mo-peds in South Carolina.