Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014: Weekly wrap


Kokomo Tribune

---- — Mo-ped registration good move for safety

Motorized bicycles, or mo-peds, are popular among riders who want maximum fuel savings for local errands and also among those without a driver’s license.

But currently, there is no requirement that the riders know even the rudiments of traffic safety laws; and the mo-peds aren’t licensed, which makes tracking them nearly impossible when they are stolen.

Both problems would be resolved by a bill co-authored by Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus. The proposal would require mo-ped drivers across Indiana to take written driving tests and get license plates starting in 2015.

Smith said he hopes the law will make mo-ped drivers and other motorists safer by ensuring mo-ped drivers know basic traffic laws.

He’s been arguing for tighter mo-ped restrictions ever since he noticed an acquaintance driving a mo-ped after losing his license after a drunken driving conviction. He said he thinks it is wrong for a person who broke traffic laws to drive on the streets.

His research has shown the bikes to be dangerous, with increasing accident rates. Last year, a 15-year-old Greenwood boy died after a motorist didn’t spot him on his mo-ped and turned in front of him. The boy didn’t have a driver’s license and by state law wasn’t required to have one to drive his mo-ped.

Previous efforts to stiffen mo-ped laws included a requirement that owners obtain insurance, just as car, truck and motorcycle owners must do now. But this idea drew strong opposition from legislators who emphasized that mo-peds represent the only transportation alternative for people whose licenses have been suspended and for whom insurance would be prohibitively expensive if not impossible to obtain.

So the current bill represents a compromise, and the insurance question can be addressed in the future.

Smith said the changes he is pushing for this year still allow people without driver’s licenses to drive mo-peds but would regulate the use of the motorbikes more.

The law would require all motorized bikes with engines smaller than 50 cubic centimeters to be registered and have license plates. Drivers also would have to take a written test to prove they know basic traffic laws.

The number of people killed or injured while driving mo-peds has increased statewide between 2008 and 2012, according to data from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. In 2008, 16 mo-ped drivers were killed and 547 were injured in accidents. Statewide in 2012, 23 mo-ped drivers were killed and 888 were injured.

Registering and getting license plates for the mo-peds also will make them easier to find if one of the small bikes is stolen. Currently, missing mo-peds are hard to track because they aren’t registered and don’t have license plates, although they do have vehicle identification numbers on them, as Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said in a story last weekend.

Smith’s proposal on enhancing safety for mo-ped riders and registering their vehicles is a common-sense step. It’s not the comprehensive change Smith and many law enforcement leaders would like, but it’s a solid step.

We urge the Legislature to approve the bill and for Gov. Mike Pence to sign it.

— The Tribune, Seymour