One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Columbia was the overabundance of scooter traffic. There are scooters parked in all the campus motorcycle spots. There are scooters locked to bike locks. There is even a scooter store a few blocks from my house. Scooters seem to be everywhere. I get it, they’re inexpensive and easy to drive. The hills in Columbia make biking difficult and the USC campus is rather spread out. Still, the overall glut of scooters here seems odd.
As a good and devoted law librarian, I did a little research. The mass of scooters and mopeds is due to some interesting loopholes in South Carolina law.
First, all operators much possess a valid driver’s license OR a moped license. As we all know, you have to be 16 to obtain a regular driver’s license. However, the same is not true of moped licenses. Moped licenses are granted without regard to eligibility, possession, or suspension of driver’s licenses. Practically speaking, this means a few things; 1. If your regular driver’s license is suspended, you can still obtain a moped license. 2. If you are under 16 and you want to drive, you can still get a moped license (the law currently says 14 and older). S.C. Code Ann. § 56-1-1720 (2006).
Second, the State of South Carolina does not consider mopeds “motor vehicles.” This means the laws regulating motor vehicles do not apply to mopeds. This includes laws regulating registration, license plates, and even DUI. While there is a bill in the Senate attempting to close this loophole, some judges have recently upheld that the South Carolina law prohibiting driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not apply to mopeds. S.C. Code Ann. § 56-3-10 (2006).
Note: South Carolina law refers to mopeds only, but the law includes scooters as well as defined by S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-165 (2006).