Moped changes gaining traction

Moped drivers in Johnson County don’t have to take driver’s tests or register their bikes with the state.

But that could change soon. State lawmakers are considering requiring moped drivers across Indiana to take written driving tests and get license plates for their small motorized bikes starting in 2015.

Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, who co-authored the proposal, hopes the law will make moped drivers and other motorists safer by ensuring moped drivers know basic traffic laws, he said.

He’s been arguing for tighter moped restrictions ever since he noticed an acquaintance driving a moped after losing his license after a drunken driving conviction.

Smith 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 moped 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 moped.

The proposed law would be better if it prohibited residents without driver’s licenses from driving mopeds and didn’t let mopeds on state highways, such as U.S. 31, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said. He doesn’t expect to see lawmakers approve restrictions that strict, he said.

“I think Milo’s taken the right steps. I don’t think they’re

going quite far enough, but anything’s better than nothing,”

Cox said. “Any kind of testing helps out and makes them

more responsible.”

The changes he is pushing

for this year still allow people without driver’s licenses to drive mopeds but would regulate the use of the motorbikes more, Smith said.

Other legislators haven’t supported requiring driver’s licenses or insurance for moped drivers, he said.

Smith and Cox have talked for several years about ways to make mopeds safer, and he

consults Cox every time he authors a proposal about mopeds, Smith said.

They agree that the small bikes are dangerous and should be regulated more closely.

If Cox comes across a moped accident, he’ll often email the accident report to Smith to keep him informed.

The law changes 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 traffic laws, Smith said.

Smith said he wants the law

to protect moped drivers from getting injured or killed, as

well as car drivers from hitting

a moped.

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

Mopeds are smaller than motorcycles, and if they collide with a car, the injuries tend to be severe or fatal, Cox said. State law already requires driving tests for motorcyclists, as well as registration and license plates.

Registering and getting license plates for the mopeds also

will make them easier to find

if one of the small bikes is

stolen, Smith said. Currently, missing mopeds are hard to track because they aren’t registered and don’t have license plates, he said.

At a glance

House Bill No. 1343, if approved in the Senate, would require:

  • Drivers of motorized bikes to display license plates on the bikes and register the bikes with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

  • Drivers of motorized bikes to take a written exam to prove knowledge of traffic laws, and have proof of passing that test printed on an unexpired identification card.

What’s happened: The House has approved the current moped bill.

What’s next: The bill will be assigned to a Senate committee this week. If approved in committee, the bill will go on to the Senate for a vote.

When it becomes law: If the Senate approves the bill and Gov. Mike Pence signs it, the changes will become law Jan. 1.