Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 30, 2014

Let's license scooters, Ind.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — In February of last year, as Kokomo mo-ped and scooter operators were readying to register 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 were in a legal gray area that almost certainly would be clarified, we thought.

Senators didn’t give it a hearing.

In 2012, an Indiana Supreme Court ruling in the case of a man arrested for going 43 mph on a scooter upheld current state law saying a “motorized bicycle,” as scooters 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.

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

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

House Speaker Brian Bosma met last year with Evansville police officers to hear why they want tougher rules for operating mo-peds and scooters. Police Sgt. Jason Cullum said two-thirds of scooter operators involved in crashes have suspended licenses, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

A bill that unanimously passed a House committee Tuesday calls for mo-ped and scooter operators to register their rides with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for a $17.30 annual fee and pay a $10 excise tax charge. Last session, the House bill also called for scooter operators to register their vehicles.

Its passage this session would be welcome news to police officers and prosecutors throughout the state.