Raleigh, N.C. — The state House on Thursday rejected a bill that would have required moped riders to carry insurance, with many members saying anecdotes about scooters causing accidents do not provide enough reason to make such a major policy change.
Backers of the bill said the measure ensures that people who are riding on public roads can pay for any damage they cause.
"We conservatives are all for being accountable and personal responsibility except, when we discuss this, we want to give somebody a free ride," said Rep. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow.
The House had already passed a version of the measure, which would have required moped owners to register their vehicles. But senators added the insurance provision to the bill, saying that moped riders should have some way of compensating other drivers for damage caused on the highways.
House members voted 51-54 against concurring with the bill, instead sending it to a conference committee.
During committee hearings on the bill, representatives of the insurance industry said that good drivers might pay somewhere between $50 to $90 per year for a policy. Drivers with more problematic records could pay close to $400, according to some estimates.
Shepard argued that those riding vehicles on the state's highways should be accountable if they cause an accident. To emphasize his point, Shepard told a story of a recent accident in which a moped exploded.
"That's like lightning striking," Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, said of Shepard's story and similar ones. "You can't make policy on something as anecdotal as that."
Other lawmakers objected because they said mopeds were the only transportation some people could afford. Rep. Charles Graham, D-Robeson, noted that some drivers who had lost their licenses used mopeds so they could hold down jobs.
"He can get on a moped and go to work. He can be responsible," Graham said.
Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, said that, while the nominal registration fee and potential insurance charges didn't sound like a lot to automobile drivers, some of her constituents ride mopeds because they can't afford anything else.
"Just because you have it doesn't mean everyone has it," Adams said.
Several Republicans opposed to the bill sounded the same themes.
"You're just going to really cripple a part of our community that this is all they have – this is all they have to get back and forth to work," said Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee.
Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, said that dealers would have to buy costly equipment to carry out the registration requirements and train their staffs to use it.
The bill, Bell said, "would take a $1,200 moped and turn it into a $2,000 moped."
Other Republicans said backers of the bill simply hadn't made their case. Providing for registration, they said, would allow the state to collect data that could prove whether it was wise to impose an insurance requirement.
"Anecdotes do not equal data," said Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, "and data is what I need to make my decisions."
During a conference committee, lawmakers from the House and the Senate work out a compromise on a bill that both chambers would have to approve. If a compromise is not reached before the end of session, expected to come as early as next week, the measure dies.