Indiana, like many states -- I think a majority of them -- doesn't require a driver's license to operate sub-50 cc scooters on city streets and rural roads. You can't take them on a highway; I think (but haven't found a reference) that even the plain old-fashioned "blue highways" are off-limits to them.*
Naturally, the little menaces-to-navigation are highly appealing to those individuals who have lost their license by reason of highly-visible foolishness, mostly of the DUI/OWI variety. And just as naturally, not a few of them have done serious damage to themselves and the vehicles of others (I've yet to see a report on someone being struck and killed by a 49 cc scooter -- pedestrians, beware). The little rides offer no protection all when they come to grief.
For example, this news story, about a young man with a meth problem, who hopped on his "60 mph...bored-out" 50 cc scooter, helmetless, crashed it and was killed. Blood tests showed he had very high levels of unprescribed medication. While his widow admits "he relapsed," she wants the State to step in, expressing the wish there'd been a helmet law, at least.
...Now, the last time I checked, the State had already outlawed the taking of, say, controlled substances; the State already had statutes that required any scooter with an engine displacement of 50 cc or greater -- even if you bored it out and installed an oversized piston after buying it as a sub-50 cc -- to be titled, insured, plated and operated by a licensed rider. And, though a moderately-clever lawyer could slip through the bars, the only exception to riding without a helmet in the law is for persons with a full Motorcycle Endorsement on their driver's license (the State figuring you've learned enough to make an informed decision). So, having flouted at least two laws and possibly three, one of them a felony, would adding more laws for the guy to break have prevented his death?
It seems majorly doubtful. It's a tragedy when someone dies, even if they were robbin' widows and orphans when they died, but when the law allows tragedy to trump good sense, it does more harm than good. There are a lot of low-income folks, some of 'em non-drinking drunks and addicts who have stopped takin', for whom a cheap scooter is the only option. The city bus system is not that great, and no good at all for third-shift assistant dishwasher: the crosstown bus does not run all night long, do-dah, do-dah.
And in closing, a reporter's insight: "Right now if you hit one on the road, chances are you're stuck with the bill." Class, would anyone like to tell me under what circumstances you would not be "stuck with the bill" if you hit another vehicle? Unless my insurer has been lying to me, the only time you're not at fault is when they hit you. (At 35 mph, a 150-pound scooter will leave a mark, make no mistake).
So do me a favor -- don't hit these guys. Most of them are doing the best they can and the remainder probably couldn't get out of the way even if they did notice you.
* Controlled-access freeways are even closed to big 150 cc scooters like mine, the kind that count as motorcycles and already require license plates, insurance and a special driver's license; it takes 250 cc or more to run with the big boys. Comparing my Bajaj Chetak to a tractor-trailer, I'm not even tempted.
YANKEE RADIO TOOL KIT, #106
4 weeks ago