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LOCAL residents received a chilling reminder about the dangers of driving and riding on a mo-ped on open highways this past week.
Thursday evening, two men were killed in a collision involving the mo-ped they were riding near the intersection of County Roads 450N and 425E and a car. The driver of the car escaped with minor injuries.
Because of the vast discrepancy in size between a mo-ped and even a compact car, the rider usually is injured. In July, a 15-year-old boy from Greenwood died after a car hit his mo-ped on U.S. 31 in Franklin.
For public safety officials, reducing the number of accidents is a challenge.
First, Indiana law requires only that a mo-ped operator be 15 and have a state identification card. Residents who have lost their driver’s licenses for driving while intoxicated also can take to the road on a mo-ped.
The state restricts small mo-peds — or any motorized bike that isn’t designed to drive faster than 25 mph and therefore isn’t classified as a motorcycle — to driving at the 25 mph limit and doesn’t allow them on interstates.
There is growing pressure across Indiana to update state laws concerning mo-peds.
State law is outdated and doesn’t even use the word “mo-ped” to describe small motorbikes, so updated definitions would help local police officers enforce the laws. The state calls mo-peds “motorized bicycles,” but elsewhere in the state they are defined as a “motor-driven bicycle” or “mini bike.” The lack of clear definitions clouds what rules apply to mo-ped drivers.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, has been trying for three years to get the Indiana House and Senate to pass new safety requirements for mo-ped drivers. Those safety measures would include requiring mo-ped drivers to take a driver’s test and have proof of passing that test on the driver’s license or state-issued identification cards the law already requires them to carry.
He also asked that mo-peds with cylinders smaller than 50 cubic centimeters be registered and plated with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Currently, the state classifies mo-peds larger than that as motorcycles. Indiana’s more stringent restrictions are on drivers of the larger bikes, which require license plates. State law also requires the drivers to take a driving test and either get motorcycle driving permits or add a motorcycle endorsement to existing driver’s licenses.
Requiring license plates and mo-ped registration with the state would make it easier for police officers to track down stolen bikes. Also, license plates would help other motorists report mo-ped drivers who are running stop signs or weaving dangerously in traffic.
In his most recent bill Smith also asked to raise the mo-ped speed limit to 30 mph, so the bikes can keep up better with traffic. He also requested that mo-peds be required to stay as far right on roads as they safely can, unless they are turning, so the drivers aren’t in as much danger when cars try to pass them, he said.
Smith’s revised mo-ped proposals have passed twice in the House but haven’t gotten past the committee stage in the Senate.
When legislators or residents argue with his proposed changes, he asks them how they would feel if they hit and killed a mo-ped driver. “I’m doing this for every person, not just the mo-ped driver,” he said. “If you run over a mo-ped driver tonight, you’re going to live with that the rest of your life.”
Smith plans to reintroduce his most recent mo-ped bill in November.
The proposals he is offering are common-sense measures that would help state law catch up with a traffic reality. We urge legislators to support the ideas during the next session so Indiana can take a step toward safer operation.
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