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Rules of the road

Moped drivers get some long-needed direction

Two little-noticed but very sensible driving-related pieces of legislation are awaiting Gov. Mike Pence’s signature. One, long overdue, sets some regulations for mopeds. The other will reduce the number of Indiana residents who have to rely on the little cycles to get to work.

The folly of allowing low-powered, motorized scooters on Indiana roads and highways with virtually no regulation has become clearer as their use has proliferated and accidents have increased in recent years. Some people ride mopeds for fun, but others depend on them for basic transportation.

Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, who in the past opposed such legislation, was a sponsor of this year’s bill, which divides motorbikes into two classes. Poky little mopeds, with engines of 50 cubic centimeters or less, would be Class B, and larger-engined, full-throated motorcycles would be Class A.

Motorcyclists still would be subject to all the regular rules of the road. But those who drive Class B vehicles would not be required to have a valid driver’s license. Instead, moped operators would just have to pass a written driving test and carry a state ID card. The scooters would have to display a state license plate, but the cost would be low – $30 or less.

One deficiency in the law that next year’s legislature should address: Unlike auto, truck and motorcycle drivers, moped drivers still won’t be required to carry insurance.

Another piece of legislation that’s been sent to the governor addresses the problem from another direction.

One reason mopeds have become so ubiquitous is the sheer number of Hoosiers who have lost their driving privileges – more than half a million. Many of those suspensions are for offenses that have nothing to do with the ability to drive responsibly: People who fall behind on child support, for example, may see their licenses suspended.

Sponsored by Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, this worthy measure would eliminate some of those types of suspensions and give judges more leeway in cases where suspension may or may not be appropriate.

Driving is a privilege, but in today’s society it is also a necessity. Regulating mopeds and reserving license suspensions for those who have abused the privilege of driving go hand in hand. The legislature is at its best when it engages in this kind of common-sense lawmaking.