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Mother urges tougher rules, taking scooters off highways

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The central Indiana mother of a man killed in a mo-ped accident wants state law changed regarding where the bikes can be driven.

Indianapolis resident Dolly Arbuckle’s 21-year-old son died in June in Terre Haute after hitting a sport utility vehicle with his mo-ped. Indiana law doesn’t protect mo-ped drivers enough, Arbuckle said. They shouldn’t be allowed on highways, where a local teen was killed on his mo-ped this summer, and state law should require all drivers to wear helmets, she said. She wants to see legislators change the laws, she said.

In July in Franklin, 15-year-old Greenwood resident Jacob Derrickson died after a car turned in front of his mo-ped to turn into a driveway on U.S. 31. On the same highway in 2012, a car hit and seriously injured a 21-year-old Bargersville man riding a mo-ped.


Officers cannot do much to protect mo-ped drivers beyond stopping them for driving too slow for safety or for speeding because state law says they can’t drive faster than 25 mph.

Recently, an officer from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office arrested a mo-ped driver on a drunken driving charge. The man arrested was a habitual traffic rule violator and was driving about 45 mph, according to a police report. If the drivers are under 18, officers can stop them for not wearing helmets or for clearly being younger than the driver age minimum of 15, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

If a mo-ped is keeping up with traffic, it is likely the driver is going faster than state law’s maximum speed for the bikes, which is 25 mph. If the driver is lagging behind, he or she is not likely to be ticketed in Johnson County.

Most of the time, though, officers only stop teens and warn them about what they’re doing, or, if they’re younger than 15, take them home and talk with their parents, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Werden said.

Ken Colburn, a county resident, parent and occasional bicyclist, is concerned that what happened to Derrickson could happen again.

“Why does the legislature think just being 15 is enough to be out on the street? When bodies hit metal and concrete, it’s no contest. If a driver makes a mistake, you can pay with your life,” Colburn said.

Mo-peds are small, like bicycles, and car drivers don’t seem to spot them, so the motorbike drivers are at risk even if they’re obeying the law in every way, he said.

Arbuckle’s son didn’t have a driver’s license because he was traumatized seven years ago from a car crash in which he was a passenger. He felt more comfortable driving a mo-ped because of its small size, and he needed a way to get to work, she said.

A mo-ped’s small size contributes to the danger, police said. Mo-peds are smaller than motorcycles, drive only about 25 mph if the drivers obey state law, and don’t have motorbikes’ larger, noisy engines that warn motorists that they’re coming, Werden said.

“Everybody that rides a motorcycle, that rides a mo-ped or even a scooter, should have to wear a helmet,” Arbuckle said. “He was plenty old enough, and he knew how to ride it. There’s nothing else that I can fault.”

Stricter legislation on mo-peds, at least for teenagers, would make sense, Colburn said.

“If you’re an adult and you want to take the risk, fine. But I’m not so comfortable with young people who don’t have driver’s licenses, even, to share the road with heavy traffic,” he said. “For me, I’m concerned about it because I do see the risks continuing, and I would like to think we could learn from this young person’s death.”

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