Tough times ahead for scooters

A new law went into effect this month concerning the use of mopeds and scooters.

I applaud the change, but I worry that this is just the first step toward excessive regulation that will put a stranglehold on the public.

The N.C. Senate tried to pass a more stringent law last year, but thankfully the House of Representatives shot it down.

What is the new law? All mopeds and scooters must be registered with the DMV and carry a license plate.

I am completely in favor of that. I had a scooter myself for more than six years and kept a plate on it.

In fact, I was pulled over one night on the way home from the office for a traffic check. The cop said he took notice of me because he’d never seen a plate on a scooter before.

Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, said it also will help law enforcement keep track of “individuals who are operating these mopeds who are committing criminal activity.”

At the very least, it could help keep police officers safe. One of the most dangerous times for a cop is when he or she approaches a stopped vehicle.

Rather than just hopping out of the patrol car and walking up to the scooter unprepared, police officers now can check their onboard computers to see if the owner of the bike has any outstanding warrants or a criminal record just like they do for any other mode of transportation on the highways.

Not only is that safer for the officer, it also is safer for the rider. I didn’t like the idea of a nervous cop coming up on me with one hand on his pistol. I would rather have him check my plate and see I’m decent guy who last had a speeding ticket when he was 19.

If this is as far as it goes, then I am fine with that. However, the N.C. Dept. of Transportation isn’t satisfied. The commissioner wants to require a state driver’s license and car insurance and wants to ban scooters from certain roads.

I can see why the state would want to do this, but I also see plenty of problems with this approach.

I agree mopeds and scooters have no place on a highway. There was a fatal accident in the past year on U.S. 52 where a scooter was traveling at a low speed at night and was hit by a car that just came up on the scooter too fast and saw the bike too late.

The way the law was written decades ago, mopeds and scooters were exempt from being called motor vehicles if their engines were smaller than 50cc in size and they went no faster than 30 mph.

Obviously a bike going 30 mph has no place on a highway with cars going 65 or even 55.

However, the state wants to cut out 45-mph roads as well.

In a big city, that’s not really a problem because many streets are 35 anyway, but we live in a rural county where it is nearly impossible to get from one town to the next without getting on a street that is at least 45 mph.

For example, if you lived in Mount Airy and needed to get to get to the county courthouse, how do you reach Dobson? Are there enough 35 streets to get you there? You wouldn’t be able to use 601, 268, Red Brush or Zephyr.

As for the license and car insurance, this sounds feasible on the surface, but I see many problems.

First, let me be clear that I despise drunk drivers. They are committing attempted murder every time they get behind the wheel. I am in favor of stricter punishment for drunk drivers.

If a person drives drunk, then they should lose their ability to drive a car or truck. Take the murder weapon away.

However, these are still people with responsibilities. They have jobs to perform, bills to pay, families to support.

As much as I hate drunk driving, the violators still should be productive members of society, and in places like Surry County, that requires a vehicle. We don’t have a public transportation system like Raleigh or Charlotte. The only way to get around is to buy a “liquor-cycle.”

By treating these small bikes like a car, we would be pricing people right out of driving altogether.

And it isn’t just the drinkers. There have been people who have had accidents and seen their insurance rates skyrocket so they get a scooter because it doesn’t require insurance.

This is a good thing, I think. You have bad drivers getting out of their heavy, powerful cars and sitting on a bike where the only damage one can do is to themselves.

There are people who have lost their license plates for 30 days for simply forgetting to pay their car insurance. These aren’t criminals, just absent-minded people like you and me. How do they get around for the next month if scooters are treated like cars?

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