Moped madness

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - High gas prices, rising car insurance rates and the inability to make a car payment - these are just a few reasons why many drivers are finding themselves ditching their 4-wheeled automobiles for something a little smaller.

While the demand for smaller cars continues to rise, so is the popularity of mopeds that aren't designed to go half the speed of a car.  However, some moped drivers in Horry County are finding ways to go faster, even if it means creating what some are calling "moped madness."

At 30 miles per hour, Myrtle Beach Police Sgt. John Bertang says a man he pulled over during a ride-along with WMBF News is considered one of the slower speeders.  In South Carolina, anything more than 25 miles per hour is considered speeding on a moped.

"I guess I went over 25," said Charles Herbert, the man pulled over for speeding.  "I know I'm supposed to be at 25.  It goes to 40, but I've been staying at 25."

Herbert's moped that exceeds the South Carolina moped speed limit by 15 miles per hour is the perfect example of how this seemingly "slow" method of transportation can pick up speed - and quick.

Jim Allen, a Myrtle Beach traffic investigator, says he wasn't surprised when we showed him videos of mopeds speeding on U.S. Highway 17 Bypass.  He says this is typical, and has even seen mopeds that can go 50 to 60 miles per hour.

This, some in law enforcement say, has prompted moped modifications that are growing into an illegal problem.

"The problem with this is mopeds aren't designed to go that fast," said Bertang.  "The handling, the breaking - drivers are compromised at speeds up to those speeds."

Unfortunately, speeding is only half of the problem.  Because local residents are ditching their cars for a set of two wheels, emergency management is seeing a heightened level of moped collisions and accidents.

This, Allen says, is attributed to what he calls "inexperienced drivers."

"I'm sure you've seen vehicles on the Bypass doing 70 to 75 miles per hour because we've seen it," explained Allen.  "Now you put a moped out there with maybe an inexperienced driver and you have the potential for a real bad situation."

Karen Villamicar saw Horry County's moped madness firsthand after witnessing two people on a moped colliding with a car.

"The girl and the guy just flew," she recalled.  "The girl flew to one side and the guy flew to the other side."

For now, local law enforcement can only do their part in reducing the problem by making moped drivers aware of their poor driving decisions.  They say they can only hope that those who drive mopeds understand and respect South Carolina's driving laws before a simple joy ride turns deadly.

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