LIHUE — Kauai businesses that specialize in selling and renting mopeds are gearing up for a new law that went into effect at the start of this year.
John Baroni, sales and finance manager of Kauai Harley Davidson, said he kept a close eye on House Bill 1753, which requires people to register their moped and get a safety check, as it went through the legislative process.
“I didn’t want to be the last one in a race,” he said.
Every moped that comes into Kauai Harley Davidson will now undergo a safety inspection before it goes on the sale floor, he said.
Safety checks on mopeds will be similar to that on a car, but the main difference is measuring how loud the moped is. Kauai Harley Davidson purchased a decibel reader and had it registered at the DMV, Baroni said.
“Any moped that comes in has to be checked for a decibel reading,” he said.
If the moped exceeds more than 100 decibels, it will not pass a safety inspection, Baroni said.
The law was passed by the Hawaii Legislature in May and went into effect on Jan. 1.
The intention of the law is to promote road safety and deter illegal changes to the mopeds that make them louder. It also prohibits people from using mopeds that aren’t in proper working order.
On Kauai, moped owners will also have to pay an annual $25 registration fee. They don’t need a motorcycle license or insurance for registration.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation is responsible for setting up registration deadlines, but that information was not available to The Garden Island by press time.
But Baroni said owners who bought mopeds before the first of the year will receive a letter from the DMV, giving them a deadline for when they need to get a safety check and register it.
Current moped owners should receive the letter a month before their one-year anniversary of owning the moped, explaining the new requirements. They then have a month to get a safety check done and register their moped.
While the new moped registration and safety check law does not have a major effect on his business, Kauai Mopeds owner Rus Souza said it adds an inconvenience to the work day.
“There’s nothing we can do about it. But it makes more work for us. If you have 20 mopeds, you have to go 20 times to get a safety check. That’s much more time and money,” he said.
Kauai Mopeds specializes in moped, scooter and motorcycles rentals.
Under the law, every moped needs to have a tag attached to it, bearing the serial number and expiration date.
The bill reads: “No person shall drive or cause to move on any highway any motor vehicle, moped, trailer, semitrailer or pole trailer, or any combination thereof, unless the equipment thereon is in good working order and adjustment as required in this part and does not endanger the driver or any person on the highway.”
If a moped is found to be unsafe, law enforcement can require the driver to submit it for an inspection. Anyone driving a moped that is not properly registered or marked will be fined $100.
And if a law enforcement officer decides a moped “cannot reasonably be restored to a safe condition,” its registration can be suspended.
“I supported it more so on Oahu, with the noise and the amount of accidents that have happened there involving mopeds,” said Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, D-15 (Wailua, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Koloa, Omao). “On Kauai, we don’t have a lot of people traveling on mopeds, but it’s fair to ask for more oversight.”
But Rep. Dee Morikawa, D-16 (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea), said she was concerned about owners having access to safety checks.
“We’re already having an issue with people getting access to automobile safety checks. Stations are closing down around the island, and people are crunching to get checks done,” she said.
Right now, Kauai Harley Davidson is the only place on island that offers safety checks for mopeds. The business is charging $19.19 for the service and Baroni expects to make a profit out of the new law.
“It’s good for business; we’re going to be inundated with safety checks,” he said. “Some people like to take their reflectors or mufflers off, but they won’t pass it without them, so they’ll need to buy it from us.”
Baroni doesn’t expect moped sales to drop because of the new requirements.
“There may be a few complaints, but I’m doing the safety check in-house. All they have to do is register it,” he said.
How police will enforce the law was a topic of conversation while the bill was on the floor, Tokioka said.
“Enforcement is going to be an issue, but something is better than nothing,” he said.
Tokioka believes the law will be enforced through good-faith efforts by moped owners.
“When we passed the smoking ban in restaurants on Kauai, it was self-policed and there was no particular oversight other than the establishment,” he said.
He foresees the moped law taking the same route.
The Kauai Police Department will enforce the new law like any other traffic violation, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.
The county is also focused on helping moped owners know and understand the new law and assist them in coming to compliance, she added.
Souza said he doesn’t fully understand the intent of the bill.
“The reason there was no registration or safety inspection requirements was to encourage people to use an alternate mode of transportation to reduce fossil fuels on the island,” he said. “It seems crazy to change it.”
Other laws that went into effect this year:
w Raising the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.
w Raising the minimum wage from $8.50 to $9.25.
w Increasing the transient accommodations tax imposed on resort time share vacation rentals by 1 percent each year.
w Requiring open captioning at movie theaters.