Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Foolhardy Rider Moped Scourge

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.


perlhaqr said...

Clearly, laws had little to do with that fellows thought processes.

Laws of man or laws of physics alike.

Anonymous said...

There is a weird paradox that I've noticed as I've gone through life: people can't quite seem to decide whether "everybody else" are normal, reasonable, rational people ("just like me!") or else drooling morons who practically need a government-appointed babysitter to keep them out of trouble every waking moment of their lives.

This cry for helmet laws is an example. Apparently, people are considered smart enough to operate a motorscooter without a license (and a roll cage, armor plate, and a government-supplied driver), but NOT smart enough to wear safety equipment when they hop into the saddle. People are considered smart enough to vote for helmet laws, but too stupid to actually put a helmet on without Nanny McGovernment telling them to do so.


I agree with the broader point, however: people who are intent on doing something stupid or criminal aren't going to be detered by yet another law.

Rob K said...

A quick perusal of Indiana law ( finds these 3 that I think are pertinent.

I think this guy was in violation of IC 9-21-10-8 at least.

IC 9-21-5-8.5
Low speed vehicles
Sec. 8.5. A person may not drive a low speed vehicle on a highway that has a speed limit in excess of thirty-five (35) miles per hour.

IC 9-21-10-8
Motorcycles prohibited from operation on highways
Sec. 8. A motorcycle:
(1) with a design speed of not more than thirty (30) miles per hour; and
(2) that has a seat, but not a saddle;
may not be operated on an interstate highway or on a highway outside the limits of a city or town.

IC 9-21-5-7
Reduction of speed; impeding normal and reasonable movement; right-of-way to other vehicles

Bob B. said...

It is not a tragedy when a moron removes himself from the gene pool.

Cincinnatus said...

I've long wished to adopt an exception to the first amendment that would criminalize the utterance of the phrase:

"There ought to be a law ..."

Ritchie said...

The foolhardy will apply that overlay to whatever they do. Still, there is this:

Sport Pilot said...

Oddly you can still be arrested for DUI even on a 50cc moped, mini-bike or even a motorized wheelchair. Yep! I've charged people in each. At one time, when I was still coming to terms with the worst of human behavior I wouldn't have believed it happened. It does, over and over...

Anonymous said...


"...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."

I think that is true in large part, and in most places here in the U.S., regardless of the laws.

In the early '80s, Honda started selling the 50cc (49cc) Honda Spree scooter. The Honda shop I raced out of in So. Cal. sold every single one they could get their hands on. Because they were a small two-stroke, they were supposed to come in for their 100 mile checkup, their 250 mile checkup, and their 500 mile checkup. Without exception, they came in for their 50 mile crash, their 100 mile crash, and their 250 mile crash.

The problem was that they looked so inoffensive (read "safe"), that people who would never have considered buying a motorcycle, wouldn't think twice about buying one of those scooters.

Unfortunately, with their tiny little wheels and leading-link forks, they just steered too quickly for the average person who hadn't been previously exposed to two-wheel motorized transport.

There were lots of minor injuries, but none serious, because the shop I raced out of was full of safety enthusiasts, and we wouldn't let one of those little accident-on-wheels out the door without being accompanied by a good full-coverage helmet, a good pair of gloves, and a sit-down lecture on riding-appropriate clothing and street safety.

Pretty sure nothing has changed, because I see an awful lot of cute little girls riding scooters these days, but sadly, they are usually wearing 3/4 coverage helmets and no gloves. Every time I see one standing in line somewhere, I introduce myself, and ask them to please go buy an inexpensive full-coverage helmet and a good pair of leather gloves as soon as possible. Gots to do my part.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Bobbi, you say "don't hit the scooter rider". Sure. As a driver I try very hard not to hit anything. :)

But I've asked the question before about who pays if the rider of the(unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured) scooter is at fault in a given accident.

I haven't gotten a good answer yet.

Motorcycle Insurance said...

Don't you just love it when people cant handle themselves and are begging the government to do it for them! Wear a helmet regardless of the law just because it very well could save your life. This is the reason everything has warning labels, no common sense these days!