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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Vehicles like the Honda Metropolitan would be regulated if proposed legislation passes.

Lawmakers mulling mopeds

Bill to regulate them, scooters moving on to state Senate

– For years, mopeds and scooters have zoomed around on Indiana roads with little or no regulation.

No licensing, insurance or tracking system of any kind exists, and interpretations on whether basic traffic laws apply to them are confusing.

But this year lawmakers are attempting to simplify the law and make it easier for law enforcement agencies to monitor.

Others see it as a first step with more to come in the future.

“Anything on the street that is motor-driven should have to be registered. Period,” said Tang Clough, floor manager at Ehlerding Motorsports in Fort Wayne. “I can’t fathom why they aren’t.”

Ehlerding sells a wide variety of these motorized scooters, and he has seen parents give them to teenagers who don’t know the rules of the road.

Clough said current Indiana law is complicated because it focuses on horsepower, cylinder capacity and a “maximum design speed” – an issue that went all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court.

A clear, concise law is what is needed, and that is what Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, is trying to provide.

He is carrying the bill for a fellow lawmaker, Suzanne Crouch, who left the legislature just as the session began to become the new state auditor. In Evansville, the proliferation of these mopeds and scooters on the roads has become a massive problem and police there have been pushing for help.

Other areas also have seen problems. For instance, New Haven passed a moped ordinance in 2012 though it didn’t go as far as some wanted.

“There are a lot of mopeds on the highway and they typically drive under the speed limit. We’ve had some accidents, and we thought it best to try to curtail them in some way,” said New Haven Police Chief Stephan Poiry. “We need to regulate them in some way. The legislature definitely needs to get involved.”

He said in New Haven most of the people using them are old enough to drive but have had their license taken away for drunken driving or other habitual traffic violations.

“Some days you feel sorry for them because you know they don’t have another option,” Poiry said. “But it’s obviously a safety concern.”

Wolkins’ bill aims for simplicity. Anything with a cylinder capacity exceeding 50 cubic centimeters is considered a Class A motor-driven cycle. The drivers must have a valid driver’s license and insurance.

Anything 50 cubic centimeters or less is considered a Class B motor-driven cycle. This designation covers the majority of these popular mopeds and scooters.

Under the legislation, the driver doesn’t have to have a license – just a valid state ID. And the driver must pass an endorsement test focusing on road signs and rules.

The motor-driven cycles have to be registered with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and pay a $10 annual excise tax.

A special license plate will distinguish them so police immediately know what rules apply. Drivers must stay to the right of the road if possible and can’t go more than 35 mph. No passengers are allowed and the driver must be at least 15 and wear a helmet if younger than 18.

The big caveat is there is no requirement for insurance on a Class B – something Wolkins acknowledged as the downside to the situation.

“If we do that we take those with DUIs and the developmentally disabled out of the equation,” Wolkins said. “If they don’t have a way to get to work they quit and don’t contribute to society.

“The police would like more but this is a good first step.”

Poiry agrees insurance is needed, pointing out that when they cause accidents with other vehicles the other driver is out of luck.

House Bill 1343 passed the House 81-14 and has a hearing scheduled in the Senate on Tuesday morning.

Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, chairs the Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee and in the past has insisted on insurance for mopeds and scooters – something that has killed the legislation in the House.

“I am going to let it go this year and see what we learn,” he said, noting 20 people died in Indiana in moped or scooter accidents last year.

He recognizes that it’s a necessity for some Hoosiers but also said irresponsible parents are just allowing their kids on the road without any training.

Once lawmakers get an idea how many of these motor-driven cycles are on the road, they can come back in the future for other changes.

Clough said the bill right now is a great start, noting that not just people in trouble use them.

His adult son has one because he works two miles from home and it is a cheap mode of commuting. But he was pulled over recently for going 43 mph in a 45 mph zone.

He was given a warning.

“This is easy for police to categorize with a reasonable speed limit and rules,” he said. “I think (lawmakers) are doing a great job.”