Moped bill presented in House

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 10:35 AM

Now that there is a bill on the table in Raleigh to require moped drivers to carry insurance for traveling the roadways with other vehicles, Henderson leaders are cautiously supportive.

Rep. Phillip Shepard, R-Onslow, introduced the measure in the state House Thursday that purports to be similar to bills mulled in prior sessions of the General Assembly.

Working out the details and encountering some opposition resulted in those bills being tabled or defeated.

Shepard’s bill, filed as House Bill 48, would require mopeds to be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles, and would require drivers to be age 17 or older, complete a “driver’s license process” and have a “policy of financial responsibility” in full force and effect before driving one.

Mopeds would also be restricted from carrying passengers, and low speed requirements would also remain in effect from prior legislation, according to Shepard.

“This has been a concern of mine for some time,” Shepard said on Friday. “I thought I would like to work on it this year. The bill is drafted, and I would hope we could make appropriate changes in committee.”

Shepard added that the draft bill is unclear if drivers would be required to hold a current driver’s license, or if certain training would be good enough. He wants to start the discussion, and include transportation and insurance leaders.

“Everywhere I go, people are expressing concern to me,” Shepard said. “The mopeds are not registered. That means if you get into an accident with one, your insurance pays for everything.”

Councilman Michael Inscoe said on Friday details would have to be worked out again this time around as before, but introducing a bill was a positive step.

“I think it is a good move to introduce that,” Inscoe said. “Requiring some insurance is a good idea, but insurance might not have to be as extensive. The cost of a moped vehicle is certainly less.”

The bill is likely to be changed in the process, but the end result should be to protect all motorists, cars and moped drivers traveling a “two-way street,” Inscoe said. “It’s a little too early to tell what will happen.”

Advocating for restrictions has been a top priority for Councilwoman Sara Coffey, who on Friday said she understood that city administrators have been working through the state’s League of Governments on moped restrictions as part of their local government agenda.

“Many different cities have been having the same problem,” Coffey said. “I sure hope that the bill does get passed. We definitely support it. It is definitely needed.”

Councilman Vernon Brown said he cannot voice unqualified support for Shepard’s bill because he has heard concerns about the level of cost for insurance that moped drivers may have to pay, and he does not want to see a disproportional burden to moped drivers.

“I think it could be a little steep,” Brown said. “Proportionally, it is a smaller, slower vehicle.”

Council members held slightly different views on whether Nathan Baskerville, the newly-elected 31-year-old General Assembly representative for Vance County, should handle the proposed bill.

Coffey hoped Baskerville would help sponsor it, while Brown said the bill needs a careful second look, along with input from both proponents and opponents.

Baskerville said he is working on other priorities at the moment and had not viewed Shepard’s bill yet.

“I would like for him to get as much knowledge about this before making a decision on it,” Brown said. “I would listen to those who might not be for it, not just this person who proposed it.”

Baskerville said he is working on a top priority for the City of Henderson, the “hold-harmless” payment issue, as well as funding for the Warren County free health clinic and funding to keep the Creedmoor magistrate’s office from closure.

“I have not seen the (moped) bill yet,” Baskerville said. “I am trying to focus on those things right now.”

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.