As Harley riders begin to show up on the Grand Strand for the start of the fall bike rally, South Carolina state troopers will also be keeping a close eye on other types of two-wheeled vehicles.
The state Highway Patrol recently sent a pamphlet of information about moped and scooter laws to law enforcement agencies around the state, to bring officers up to date on how state law differs between the two vehicles.
Troopers suspect many people are confused about the legal requirements. "I think most people don't realize where they stand and what vehicle they're on," said Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins.
For example, riders of the more powerful scooters must have motorcycle licenses and their vehicles must be insured, two requirements that riders of the less powerful mopeds don't need, Collins said.
Both vehicles are allowed on any South Carolina highway, but mopeds cannot legally travel faster than 25 miles per hour and they must be clearly marked with a "moped" tag. Moped riders must have a regular driver's license or a Class G license, which allows riders 14 years old to operate a moped, but a motorcycle license is not required for moped operators. Also, mopeds can't have engines larger than 50 cubic centimeters. Scooters often have engines of 125 cc's and up.
Coastal Carolina University student Rick Rivers bought his moped about a month ago, to give him an easier way to get around campus, but he's among those who were unsure about what the law required.
"That was one thing I was questionable about too, like, do we need a license for it? And that was the first thing I asked before buying it," Rivers said.
The manager of Eagle Rider motorcycle rentals in Myrtle Beach said people often use the same language to refer to either vehicle.
"When people call and ask, 'Do you rent mopeds or scooters?', I explain to them that right now, it's pretty much the same thing, but the law, they treat it differently," said John Arrants.
State troopers have taken note of the increasing popularity of the two-wheeled vehicles and that has them concerned.
"We're seeing so many more of these vehicles on the road and that's where the problem lies," said Collins. "We've seen mopeds driving in the left lane on a four lane highway, which of course is for faster traffic, and they're only going to be going 25 miles an hour, which makes it increasingly dangerous."
The difference in speeds for mopeds versus cars and other vehicles is what causes accidents, Collins said. "The closing speed is so great, most motorists don't realize that mopeds are even there until the last minute."
He said moped and scooter riders can help keep themselves safe by avoiding the heaviest-traveled highways during rush hour traffic and by making themselves very visible. Wearing a brightly-colored, reflective traffic vest would be a good idea for riders, he said. Like motorcycles, helmets aren't required for mopeds or scooters in South Carolina, but Collins said riders should use them anyway.
"If you're going to be on a moped or a scooter or even a motorcycle, you should take all the precautions, wear all your protective gear, because you have very little protection against a car."