New moped requirements hit snag - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

13 Investigates

New moped requirements hit snag

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Indianapolis - High gas prices and warmer temperatures could prompt more motorists to use low-powered mopeds. But police say not everyone on them should be driving.

13 Investigates has uncovered suspended drivers operating them drunk, but a push to change Indiana law has hit a speed bump.

Kevin Jennings of Greenwood is the latest making headlines across Indiana. He was sentenced to five years for operating a moped while intoxicated. The case highlights a problem 13 Investigates uncovered in February.

"They're back out driving, and they're driving drunk. Some of them are on those mopeds drunk," said Sgt. Bruce Qualls, Muncie Police.

A loophole in state law allows habitual traffic offenders like Kevin Jennings and Randy Bunton to get back on the road on 49cc scooters with no license and no insurance. Jennings was caught driving a moped with a blood alcohol level of .21. Bunton crashed his moped last October. His BAC was .265, more than three times the legal limit.

"Yes, I have a lifetime suspension. That's why I buy scooters," said Bunton.

We took our findings to the Indiana House of Representatives, where lawmakers Phil Hinkle and Milo Smith pushed for change.

"It's my intent that no one should be able to operate a motorized bike on our public streets when they're under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Rep. Milo Smith (R-Columbus).

Smith's bill requiring both titles and insurance passed with overwhelming support. But the Senate says there's more to consider, like the impact on transportation for reformed offenders who are now heading down the right path.

"You know as well as I do that this is kind of a volatile subject," said Sen. James Arnold, (D-LaPorte) Senate Minority Caucus Leader.

Sen. Arnold is co-sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. The former LaPorte County Sheriff says it's time for tougher measures, but lawmakers need more information. He's pushing the bill to a summer study committee instead of a vote.

"This is the first time it's ever come forward this magnitude. But it boils down to financial and personal responsibility," said Arnold.

The BMV says the state could generate an additional $78,000 in extra registration fees for 49cc mopeds. Lawmakers believe adding insurance requirements will make it tougher for suspended drivers to get back on the road legally.

"They do have things called "high risk" insurance. I'm not so sure they could meet the premium requirements, but unfortunately that's kind of the penalty you have to pay for irrational behavior. Sooner or later we have to be held accountable for our actions," said Arnold.

But the overriding message this session is "not now."

For another season, Indiana will continue to operate under an outdated motorized bicycle law, meaning anyone 15 years of age or older can get on and ride, even those without a license or insurance.

Related stories:

State lawmakers respond to Indiana's moped loophole

Indiana man seeks tougher rules for moped drivers

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