News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 5, 2013

EDITORIAL: Danger on two wheels

For all drivers’ safety, we need better scooter laws

The Tribune-Star

---- — Call them whatever you like — scooters, mopeds, motorized bikes, etc. — but it’s time for Indiana to come to grips with these vehicles’ expanding presence and to adopt uniform laws to regulate them, just as it does for other motor vehicles.

Scooters serve a variety of purposes, including cheap transportation in a time of soaring gas prices. They’re also popular recreational vehicles, ridden simply for the fun of it. They also allow people age 15 or older who, for various reasons, don’t have a state-issued driver’s license, or have a suspended license, to tool around streets and roadways to their heart’s content, without any specific training or having to have the kind of insurance required of motor vehicles.

Part of the problem is that there are simply so many of the small, slow vehicles on our roads today. As the volume of scooters on Indiana roadways has increased, so have the number of serious crashes and fatalities.

Law enforcement agencies around the state have been raising their voices about scooters in recent years, pleading with the Indiana General Assembly to address the issue in the interests of public safety. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful. But the chorus continues to swell. The next legislative session, which begins in January, may be the charm. We hope so.

Having the legislature step in with a uniform law that addresses licensing will also help bring consistency to the myriad local ordinances that now dot the state.

Terre Haute is one of the communities in Indiana that wisely took the matter into its own hands. The City Council passed an ordinance in 2011. It includes a small registration fee and stickers; a 25 mile-per-hour speed limit; age and passenger restrictions; vehicle inspections; and a helmet requirement for eligible teens under 18.

But the ordinance applies only in the city limits. Beyond that, scooters are either regulated by other local laws, of which there are few, or the state law, which is weak and confusing.

Terre Haute’s ordinance works reasonably well, but more is needed in a state law, including more formal licensing and an insurance requirement.

We urge local lawmakers to support efforts to clean up and strengthen Indiana’s scooter law. Such a measure is long overdue.