« Indiana Decisions - More on the Celebration Fireworks decision | Main | Environment - Sunday Indianapolis Star editoralizes »

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Indiana Law - Enforcing Scooter Laws a Problem

"Indiana Having Trouble Laying Down the Law on Scooters" is the headline to this story today in the Washington Post. Some quotes:

Police, motorists and pedestrians in Indiana are dealing with an increasingly common menace on the streets -- an invasion of scooters with powerful motors often ridden by youngsters with little experience in the rules of the road.

It is against state law for kids younger than 15 to ride motorized scooters or minibikes that go faster than 25 mph, but many people do not know this, and police are unsure how far to go in enforcing the law. Most times, they just call parents. * * *

Along with traditional foot scooters with gas or electric motors, people are riding European scooters and small replicas of Japanese power bikes called "pocket bikes."

"The popularity of them has increased tremendously, and most people don't know what the laws are -- that you have to wear a helmet and that you have to be at least 15," state police spokesman Scott Beamon said.

Meanwhile, the front page of the Sunday Styles section of the NY Times today has this story, dateline San Francisco and titled "Unfazed by the Law, Pocket-Bikers Roll On," complete with appealing photo -- indicating that the problem is not limited to Indiana. A quote:
"They are the summer's hottest fad," said Lt. Kit Crenshaw, a traffic enforcement officer in the San Francisco Police Department, which has begun issuing tickets to riders and even impounding their bikes. "There's a veritable infestation," he said.

The bikes, most without lights and horns and all without vehicle identification numbers, are not legal for street use and are considered potentially hazardous to riders and pedestrians, the police say. But the people buying them ó mostly adolescent boys too young to have drivers' licenses ó seem unconcerned with anything that would restrict their fun. * * *

Far more dangerous than the riders' lack of safety equipment, however, is the size of the bikes. "Your forehead is exactly lined up with cars' bumpers," said Capt. Rick Bruce of the Bayview District Station of the San Francisco Police Department. His jurisdiction is inundated with the bikes. "Someone is going to be killed," he said.

Indiana papers have had a number of stories recently about the scooter and pocket bike probem:

"Scooter riders bypass the law: Motorized vehicles are proliferating, but many kids are riding illegally, police say," is the headline from a comprehensive June 14th story in the Indianapolis Star that also includes a sidebar paraphrasing the law. Some quotes from the story:

The law is clear: No one younger than 15 can ride a motor vehicle on the road. But motorized scooters and minibikes of all sorts are invading the neighborhoods of Central Indiana and other areas, and many riders are much younger than 15. The situation is causing headaches for authorities. Some police agencies, such as in Hamilton County, are combining education efforts with an enforcement crackdown. Other agencies prefer taking up the matter with parents. * * *

A variety of vehicles are showing up on the streets. One of the more popular is the traditional foot scooter with a gas or electric motor. There are also smaller-scale European-style scooters. And popping up more and more are "pocket bikes" -- small replicas of Japanese power bikes. Prices range from less than $150 for a foot scooter with an electric motor to more than $2,000 for a European-style scooter.

The June 17th Fort Wayne Journal Gazette had an editorial on the issue. Some quotes:
The crackdown on motor scooters in Greenwood and other Indiana cities raises the question of whether Indiana law governing them is too permissive. As an Associated Press story Tuesday reported, the police are finding that many teens are violating even the stateís relatively lax laws that allow anyone 15 and older with a valid state ID card to ride the two-wheelers. * * *

Lawmakers should consider a separate licensing process for scooter riders. Testing 15-year-olds on traffic rules would be a healthy precursor for the real driverís test. Given the stateís fiscal situation, user fees would have to finance the licensing, and state officials would need to determine those costs. If the license fee is unreasonably high, such a license would be impractical. An alternative would require scooter riders to have a valid driverís license.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 27, 2004 08:20 AM
Posted to Indiana Law