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February 28, 2013

OUR VIEW: Mo-ped law needs clarity

As mo-ped and scooter operators eagerly await springtime, the rest of the state awaits what the Indiana Senate will 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 will be clarified, should the bill pass the Senate and get the signature of Gov. Mike Pence.

This past 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.

They have been asking for clarification of the issue for years, but it is one state lawmakers have been reluctant to tackle.

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, and state Rep. Tim Neese’s bill appears to do just that.

The Elkhart Republican’s proposal also calls for mo-ped operators to register their rides with the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Passage of Neese’s bill would be welcome news to police officers and prosecutors throughout the state.

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