Lawmakers to consider Indiana's scooter law
INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana is tackling dangerous loopholes in state laws uncovered earlier this year by 13 Investigates. Now there's action at the Statehouse, and even one of Indiana's top courts is weighing in as the fatalities climb.
This summer, Ronnie Jackson veered off the road, struck a utility pole and was thrown to his death in Fulton County.
"He drove up there on a scooter. He had no helmet. He was very much impaired," said Sandra Jackson, Ronnie's widow.
He was free to drive a 50cc moped under Indiana law with no license and no insurance.
"They said it looked like he got back up, fell to his face in a kneeling position and that's how they found him," she said.
Now, toxicology reports reveal what 13 Investigates exposed months ago: impaired, suspended drivers are allowed back on the road due to a loophole in state law.
Ronnie Jackson had a high level of prescription drugs in his system.
"He relapsed is what he did. He was a meth user," said Sandra Jackson.
Ronnie Jackson traveled some 20 miles on State road 19 on a scooter designed to go 25 to 35 miles per hour. Under current state law, they're only prohibited on the interstate. But his widow says he had his illegally modified to go much faster.
"His went up to 60mph...He had it bored out," said Jackson.
Lawmakers and scooter industry supporters admit there's a problem, but question how far changes should go.
"We must think of the people, the majority of scooter riders on fixed incomes. People whose lives depend on that scooter," said George Hawkins, Scooter Industry representative.
"It will create a clear and extreme hardship on the friends and families of these individuals. It will create an additional burden on the welfare on our community by denying a significant group of people and independent means of transportation," added advocate Duane O'Neal.
A bill tabled in the spring called for title and insurance for scooters and mopeds under 50cc's to ensure riders take personal and financial responsibility. Right now if you hit one on the road, chances are you're stuck with the bill.
Just ask Evansville Police. That city reports 49-property damage accidents involving scooters. None of the drivers were insured, ten were habitual traffic offenders and eight were suspended.
"The moped rider ended up almost in her lap through a window and of course no insurance and also there was alcohol involved," said Officer Sara Hillsmeyer, Evansville Police Department.
Scooter enthusiast Ben Roe wants the state to treat scooters and mopeds like boats. There's no specific license, but the vehicle is plated.
"If someone has had their license suspended they can't get a plate, and that's a really good way for police to enforce it," said Roe.
Sandra Jackson knows her husband chose to drive impaired. Still, she can't help to wonder "what if."
"I very much hope somebody learns from this, because life is short and we can't take it for granted. So safety is a big issue," said Jackson.
The Indiana Court of Appeals is also criticizing Indiana lawmakers over its outdated scooter laws. It overturned a speeding ticket issued to a scooter driver because of conflicting standards between motorcycles and scooters.
Nationwide, 37 states already require licensing, title and insurance. Representative Milo Smith says it's time Indiana catches up. New legislation is expected next year.
Lawmakers are exploring titles and insurance to make it easier for police to track small mopeds or scooters. They also hope the insurance requirement will make it harder for suspended drivers to ride while ensuring parents of 15-year-olds who ride will take some financial responsibility. The BMV says the extra fees would generate about $78,000 in state revenue.