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(Courtesy Indy Star)
The free ride will soon be over for low-speed scooters in Indiana.
Drivers of moped scooters with engines of 50 cubic centimeters or less will need to buy license plates and take a street sign test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles beginning next year.
They also will be required to carry a state of Indiana identification card, but can still drive without a license or insurance, unlike owners of more-powerful scooters or motorcycles.
The BMV held a news conference Tuesday to announce the changes to give riders time to prepare.
Police and lawmakers said the new law will make the roads safer because scooter owners who are in accidents will be traceable and held to account.
The scooters are growing in popularity, especially with people who have had their licenses revoked or suspended, such as repeat traffic offenders and drunk drivers.
The bill was authored by state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw, who has said it provides both accountability for the moped drivers and gives those with suspended licenses a way to get to work. The law was passed earlier this year and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Michael Tockey, owner of Speed City Cycle in Indianapolis, calls them “liquor cycles.”
“We have people who aren’t allowed to drive a car but are out there driving these cheap, unregistered bikes without insurance and without licenses,” said Tockey, who sells about 100 of the slower-speed scooters a year and would support a tougher law requiring licensing. “I call them disposable bikes because the drivers get in accidents, leave the bikes and walk away from them,” he said.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Chris Bailey said police can ticket low-speed scooter drivers just like any other motorists.
“We can give them tickets for speeding, unsafe lane usage and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated,” Bailey said.
But he could not immediately provide numbers on how many scooters were in accidents.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, had introduced bills in the past that would have required moped drivers to get motor vehicle licenses, but those efforts failed. He was a co-sponsor of Wolkins’ compromise bill.
“I noticed there were a lot more people driving them on the road and they tended to drive carelessly, weaving in and out of traffic or even riding on sidewalks,” Smith said. “Law enforcement told me of a rise in accidents.”
He said about three-quarters of the states don’t require licensing but most require registration of the vehicles.
The moped scooters can look like more powerful scooters, which require a license to drive, and can be confusing to police trying to determine whether the driver should be licensed.
The new license plates will be colored differently from other scooters’ license plates and will cost $26.35 a year. The ID card costs $11.50.
BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie said the registration of the slow-speed scooters also will help locate stolen scooters and scooters used in crimes.
The slower-speed scooters cost $500 and aren’t built to go faster than 35 mph but can be modified to go as fast as 60 mph, Tockey said.
The most-popular scooters, like the Vespa, come with engines in the 250cc to 300cc range and can go about 80 mph. Some with engines as large as 700cc can reach speeds of 120 mph.
The new law also will raise the allowed speed on the road for the slower scooters from 30 mph to 35 mph and will prohibit the carrying of passengers.
Because those scooters aren’t currently registered, it is unknown how many are in use in Indiana.
“Now, at least, we’ll know the number we are dealing with,” Smith said, once the new law takes effect.
For further information on the new law go to http://www.in.gov/bmv/3220.htm
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