COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – A bill to put new requirements on moped riders in South Carolina died for the year Wednesday when the SC House failed to override the governor’s veto of the bill. The bill would have required moped riders to buy license tags, register their mopeds, have either a driver’s license or a moped license, and wear reflective vests. Riders under 21 would have had to wear helmets.
All moped riders would also have to follow traffic laws, which is not the case now. Rep. Derham Cole, Jr., R-Spartanburg, told House members Wednesday that was the most important part of the bill, in his opinion. “Currently, under the law, because of the way mopeds are defined, you cannot be charged or convicted of a DUI offense if you are riding a moped under the influence of alcohol or other substances on the roadways. This is an extremely dangerous situation that has gone on for many years,” he said.
Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the bill because she says it was government overreach. In her veto letter to lawmakers, she wrote, “I believe adults over the age of 18 – who are allowed to vote and serve in our military-should decide for themselves what they should wear for their personal safety.” She also said moped riders under 21 shouldn’t be required to wear helmets since motorcycle riders under the age of 21 don’t have to.
But Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, told House members, “The veto message incorrectly states that the law does not require motorcycle drivers under the age of 21 to wear a helmet. That is incorrect and this moped bill actually mirrors the motorcycle bill, and drivers of motorcycles under the age of 21 are required to wear helmets.”
He said the governor’s point about people old enough to serve in the military being able to decide for themselves what they should wear for safety was also irrelevant because U.S. military bases require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets and reflective vests, regardless of age.
But House Democrats sided with the Republican governor. Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, House Minority Leader, said, “Put me down on record as saying I agree with the governor–this is government overreach.”
“The next step would be we’re going to make people that ride bicycles have green safety vests,” he said. “You can’t ride a bicycle without a green safety vest, because you can clearly ride a bicycle anywhere you can ride a moped, so why are we not reaching even further and making people that ride bicycles wear green safety vests? In fact, let’s make them wear helmets too. Why not? If we’re doing it for people on mopeds we should be doing it for people on bicycles.”
House members who support the bill and asked lawmakers to override the governor’s veto said the bill was about safety and saving lives. The state saw a big increase in moped deaths last year. Rep. Mike Ryhal, R-Myrtle Beach, said right before the vote, “We are going to see more people lose their lives because we will not take care of business here. This is not government overreach.”
The vote was 65 to 47 to override, a majority, but not the two-thirds majority required, so the moped bill is dead for the year.