Raleigh, N.C. — Questions and criticism from several lawmakers scuttled a planned House committee vote Tuesday on legislation that would require moped operators to obtain insurance and have their scooters inspected annually.
The House Transportation Committee could vote on House Bill 148 as early as next week, but stiff resistance makes it uncertain whether the proposal will pass.
The General Assembly last year passed legislation requiring mopeds to be registered with the state Division of Motor Vehicles, and lawmakers flirted then with the notion of requiring insurance before eventually backing off the idea.
Reps. Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, and Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, who sponsored the 2014 law returned Tuesday to encourage passage of more restrictions on mopeds.
"There have been many, many instances the last several years where mopeds were involved in accidents, and sometimes it was their fault," Shepard said. "It's increasingly becoming more and more of a problem. We could put it off for a year or two years, but the problem doesn't go away."
Dr. Anna Miller, an orthopedic trauma surgeon and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, told lawmakers that moped crashes result in some of the most severe injuries she sees. She led a study that compared moped operators involved in crashes with motorcyclists in crashes and found moped riders had six times the rate of impaired driving convictions as motorcyclists and also were less likely to be employed or have health insurance.
"This is actually a large danger not only to the patients themselves but to other drivers on the road," Miller said. "It's a major public health hazard that we're all paying for, both monetarily and with patients' lives."
A DMV study found that mopeds were involved in 833 accidents statewide in 2013.
Tim Lucas, personal-lines manager for the North Carolina Rate Bureau, which helps insurers set rates on various policies, said moped insurance wouldn't be covered by the Rate Bureau, so pricing would be up to individual companies. If no company wants to write moped policies in North Carolina, insurance wouldn't be available in the state, he said.
Shepard said that's unlikely, noting some moped operators already have insurance coverage.
Still, the prospect of forcing insurance on mopeds when it might not be available – or could possibly be cost prohibitive – made some lawmakers balk.
"I'm concerned that we're adding additional (restrictions) already, and we haven't even implemented Stage 1," said Rep. Jamie Boles, R-Moore, referring to the registration requirement, which doesn't take effect until July. "I don't know if maybe we're a year ahead of ourselves."
"Don't you think we're being premature?" asked Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston. "There are a lot of unanswered questions."
"Bottom line is I think we're jumping into something here before we have enough information to make a decision," said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven.
"I don't know what more information to give you except there's a problem here," Shepard said.