Raleigh, N.C. — After 40 minutes of reports and discussion over pending and potential moped regulations, about half the crowd on hand for Tuesday's transportation oversight committee meeting headed for the exits.
"Who knew mopeds could pack a room?" quipped Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg.
In fact, mopeds have been packing rooms around the General Assembly for a few years now, as lawmakers have taken various passes at regulating the small bikes, which are supposed to be limited to 50-cc engines and going 30 mph. During the 2014 session, lawmakers required that all mopeds be registered, something due to start happening July 1.
However, following a report by the Division of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, several House and Senate lawmakers signaled a willingness to dive back into the more controversial issue of requiring moped riders to carry insurance.
"All the citizens of your district are paying more for their uninsured (motorist) coverage because we don't require mopeds to have insurance," said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.
Across the state, there were 833 accidents involving mopeds in the state during 2013, according to a report from the DMV. Requiring insurance would ensure that other drivers don't pay for accidents caused by moped riders.
That case has been made in prior years and frequently runs up against a desire not to price people out of the only kind of transportation they may be able to afford or want.
"That's what concerns me in some of this legislation is that we’re making it too strenuous for the folks that really use these vehicles, if you want to call them that, for their mode of transportation," said Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson.
John Hill, a Greensboro moped dealer and a member of the North Carolina Motorcycle Dealers Association, said that moped riders are being blamed for accidents being caused by people who are riding bigger bikes illegally.
"The mopeds that are going 30 mph on a college campus or an urban area ... are not the ones in your fatality records," Hill said.
Rather, he said, some riders were ordering bikes outside of the state that had bigger than 50-cc engines and were capable of going faster than 30 mph. Although there aren't hard and fast numbers to bear that out, DMV data does show that many of the fatal accidents involving mopeds do happen on higher-speed roads.
Hill warned that overly broad legislation could require riders of even smaller electric bicycles, which use a battery to help people pedal, to obtain insurance.
Aside from requiring insurance, other potential changes the DMV has suggested to the General Assembly include:
- prohibiting mopeds from driving on roads posted at 45 mph or greater
- prohibiting those who have lost their driver's licenses due to drinking while driving from riding mopeds
- requiring that moped riders have a driver's license or state-issued identification card
It's unclear how many of those recommendations will find favor during the legislative session, which gets underway in earnest on Wednesday. The official report from the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Transportation relayed information but made no recommendations, meaning no one idea is coming in with a leg up over another.
"I have real hesitation about the DWI language, especially for one-time offenders," Jeter said. If "we’re dealing with multiple offenses and things like that, I think it’s a different discussion. But I think we've got to be mindful that, most of the time, especially outside of college campuses, these people are using these to get to employment, which is good for the state."