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New law takes aim at mopeds in South Carolina

The state of South Carolina's laws regarding vehicle safety had a curious loophole: Mopeds were virtually unregulated.

Think you might want to ride one without a helmet, even though decades of research have proven that helmets save lives? It was legal.

Should you get on one and take to the roads after having a six-pack of beer on an empty stomach? There was no law against it and you couldn't be arrested for it.

If you didn't want to pay for insurance, just in case you injured someone -- hey, that was okay, too!

In fact, until the governor signed the moped safety law this past month, there were almost no laws that applied to mopeds at all -- a fact that put not just moped drivers at risk but everyone else on the road with them.

The quirk in the law developed because the state has very little public transportation -- so mopeds were specifically excluded from the definition of a motor vehicle. That meant that they were also, by default, excluded from laws meant to regulate motor vehicle safety and things like insurance regulations.

Mopeds have become a popular choice of transportation in the state for essentially two classes of people: young people or other free spirits who are traveling through and people who have lost their license to drive a car because of drunk driving charges.

As a result, the state saw almost 800 crashes last year alone, and more than 80 percent of those crashes resulted in injuries. While at least 41 moped drivers were killed, there's no tally on the number of other vehicles involved in collisions with mopeds driven by drunk drivers -- nor is there a tally of those they've injured.

The changes in the law, while slightly less than what advocates had hoped to achieve, does close a number of significant loopholes. Mopeds are now added to the list of motor vehicles. Although they still aren't taxed like cars, they now require insurance -- which means that if a moped driver injures someone, that person can be compensated for those injuries. Although moped licenses are still considered separate from a regular driver's license, drivers can now be penalized for driving the moped while drunk.

If you are injured by a moped driver who is negligent or drunk, an attorney can go over your legal options with you.

Source: Insurance Journal, "South Carolina to Enact Moped Safety Law," Seanna Adcox, May 28, 2017

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