Raleigh, N.C. — After years of debate over the issue, the state Senate gave final approval Tuesday to requiring moped drivers to carry liability insurance.
House Bill 148 requires moped drivers to have minimum liability insurance as defined under state law, which is $30,000 for injury or death of one person, $60,000 for injury or death of two or more people and $25,000 for property damage.
The legislation follows last year's law requiring moped drivers to register their vehicles with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The registration requirement takes effect July 1. The new insurance requirement takes effect July 1, 2016.
According to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the state Department of Insurance projects that will cost about $80 a year for drivers who have no points on their licenses. But that soars to $380 a year for drivers with a driving while impaired conviction on their record.
Apodaca suggested moped drivers who've had their licenses permanently revoked probably won't be able to obtain insurance coverage at all.
Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, spoke against the measure, saying it's an additional hardship to impose on people who are struggling to find transportation to get to jobs and support their families.
"Many people that ride these aren’t just drunks," Bingham argued.
Of those who are riding mopeds because they've lost their license for a DWI, he said, some may be veterans back from active duty who "got in trouble" with DWIs. He urged the Senate to do more to allow drivers with DWIs to use ignition interlock devices instead. He said requiring moped insurance is unnecessary.
"We all have and we all pay an uninsured motorist bill now," he said. "I think you all know that, if you have an accident with a moped against Sen. Berger's Buick, the moped would lose."
But Apodaca cited a 2014 study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center that found 39 percent of moped drivers brought in for treatment had alcohol in their systems, compared with 24 percent of those treated for car accidents.
He also cited a study by Carolinas Medical Center, which found that half of all moped drivers it treated in 2011 had been drinking.
"Forty-five percent had a previous DWI, and 71 percent of those were repeat offenders," Apodaca said.
Twenty-one of 32 states that regulate mopeds require their drivers to carry insurance, he added.
The legislation passed 39-8. It now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory, who can choose to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.