2017-01-11 / Columns


Public safety is not government overreach

Helmets, vests, flashing lights, licenses — all are needed in South Carolina to curb the rise in moped-related collisions and deaths.

The small motor bikes are slow, hard to see, hard to hear and grossly under-regulated. Yet, a few in state government look the other way, yammering about the nanny state interfering in private lives.

Among them is Gov. Nikki Haley, who last year vetoed a bill that would have brought some common sense — and safety — to this growing problem. She called its two dozen pages of moped safety regulations “government overreach.” The House voted to override the veto. But the reform died in the Senate when certain requirements — like wearing reflective vests at night — were considered a burden by one senator who said telling people what to wear is “tantamount to being un- American.”

For similar reasons, former Gov. Mark Sanford opposed a law to make all motorcycle riders wear helmets, even when they turn 21.

Government over-regulation is an old whipping boy in South Carolina, but it’s often unfair. Regulations are there for a good purpose in most cases.

The moped issue shows that bashing regulations may make for good rhetoric, but it surely makes for bad government.

When medical and law enforcement professionals see a problem and beg for help, lawmakers should step off the soap box and use some common sense.

Forty-five people died in moped crashes last year in South Carolina. That’s an increase from 12 in 2001 and 21 in 2010. Moped-related collisions also are on the rise, up from 167 in 2001 to 618 in 2010 to 819 last year.

“Lives are being lost needlessly with not a whole lot of regulation,” said state Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry. He and state Rep. Bill Crosby, R-Charleston, have pre-filed bills for 2017 that should reverse those trends.

Nothing is onerous about requiring moped drivers to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles, follow the same traffic rules as all other vehicles, wear reflective vests at night and wear a helmet.

Today, moped drivers cannot be charged with driving under the influence because mopeds are not considered motor vehicles under South Carolina law.

No training is required to operate a moped.

Children age 14 can legally drive one.

Mopeds are required to have only generic license tags.

Yet, we’re worried about government overreach?

We should be worried about government asleep at the wheel.

Whatever happened to common sense?

A level-headed response is needed as this simple reform moves forward.

Public safety is a primary function of government. Public safety in operating mopeds, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, boats, standup personal watercraft, bicycles and motorcycles are part of that obligation.

Life is dangerous, and people are careless, even with regulations. Writing law does not mean everyone obeys it, of course. But things are even worse when people are left to their own devices, as the moped safety statistics show.

The few remaining roadblocks to this matter of public safety should come to their senses and do the right thing.

— The (Hilton Head) Island Packet

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