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Lawmakers Push for Moped Laws as Fatalities Rise

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Over concerns that mopeds are causing more accident-related deaths, at least one lawmaker is attempting to change the laws to make it mandatory to carry a license to operate a moped. In fact, at least 17 states have already adopted laws requiring moped drivers to carry a license for their vehicle. A similar bill is up for debate in North Carolina. In addition, bills requiring moped drivers to wear a helmet are pending in Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, and Washington.

The problem is that mopeds are too slow to keep up with regular traffic and too fast to be easily passed. Consequently, mopeds are increasingly involved in fatal traffic accidents. The National Highway Traffic Administration reports that the number of moped-related fatalities rose from 48 to 96 between 2005 and 2009. Take, for example, the tragic death of James Grisham, 49, who was killed last year while speeding on his moped. Grisham and his friend Barry Gonsalves were joking about who could down a hill the fastest at 9 p.m. at night when a car came up from behind, hitting and killing Grisham.

Lawmakers also have other concerns about mopeds, too. For example, in South Carolina drivers whose regular licenses have been suspended can drive a moped for up to six months without getting a moped license. Furthermore, it’s not illegal to drive a moped while intoxicated: mopeds were excluded in the definition of a "motor vehicle" in the state’s DUI law. However, most states that require a license to operate a moped consider driving one drunk a DUI offense.

For Cyd Phillips of South Carolina, whose brother was killed while operating a moped, says she believes that lawmakers should require more lights on mopeds. But she also believes that moped-rider rights questions should be included on driver’s tests and that more roundabouts should be installed to slow traffic and make roads safer for mopeds. For Phillips, everyone has the right to be on the roads–but that would mean that moped drivers have to follow the same rules as other vehicle drivers do, too.