Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 12, 2013

In need of clarity


Kokomo Tribune

---- — In February, as Kokomo mo-ped and scooter operators were registering their rides with the city ahead of spring, the rest of the state was wondering what the Indiana Senate would do with a bill that passed the House, 75-18, and set a 30 mph speed limit for mo-ped users on state roadways.

The motorized bicycles have been in a legal gray area that almost certainly would be clarified, we thought.

Senators didn’t give it a hearing.

Last summer, an Indiana Supreme Court ruling in the case of a man arrested for going 43 mph on a mo-ped upheld current state law saying a “motorized bicycle,” as mo-peds are classified, cannot have a maximum design speed over 25 mph.

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. Current Indiana law says individuals don’t need a driver’s license to ride mo-peds and scooters, but police and prosecutors argue the restriction was meant for vehicles built to travel no faster than 25 mph. Lock’s mo-ped was traveling 43 mph, and people in law enforcement argue a vehicle capable of going that fast can’t possibly be exempt from traffic laws.

The issue is not whether mo-peds should be going 43 mph. State law already sets the maximum speed at 25.

The issue is whether a mo-ped rider is subject to the same restrictions as the operator of a car or motorcycle.

House Speaker Brian Bosma met last week with Evansville police officers to hear why they want tougher rules for operating mo-peds. Police Sgt. Jason Cullum said two-thirds of mo-ped operators involved in crashes have suspended licenses and almost all of them have no insurance, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The bill that passed the House last session also called for mo-ped operators to register their rides with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Passage of such a bill would be welcome news to police officers and prosecutors throughout the state.