Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

April 29, 2012

In need of clarity

An approaching Indiana Supreme Court ruling on the legal status of mo-peds is long overdue.

The motorized bicycles have been in a legal gray area that almost certainly will be clarified by the court’s decision.

The case, Michael Lock v. State of Indiana, dates back to 2009 when a state trooper pulled over the Huntington man as he was riding along a state highway.

Lock was convicted on a class D felony charge of operating a vehicle with a suspended license. As punishment, he had his driving privileges taken away for life.

Lock appealed the conviction, arguing he did not need a license to operate a “motorized bicycle.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Lock’s conviction, and the case is now before the state’s highest court, where justices heard arguments last week.

Current Indiana law says individuals don’t need a driver’s license to ride mo-peds and scooters, but the state argues the restriction was meant for vehicles built to travel no faster than 25 mph. Lock’s mo-ped was traveling 42 mph, and police and prosecutors argue a vehicle capable of going that fast can’t possibly be exempt from traffic laws.

Police and prosecutors have been asking for clarification of the issue for years, but the issue is one state lawmakers have been reluctant to tackle.

The fact is mo-peds like the one Lock was riding have become the vehicle of choice for drivers who have lost their licenses. Lock himself, in fact, has been judged to be a habitual traffic offender.

State police note the number of crashes on state highways involving the motorized bicycles went from 630 in 2009 to 790 in 2010. They say the number of non-fatal injuries in those crashes went from 558 in 2009 to 676 in 2010. And those numbers don’t include crashes on county roads or city streets.

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