The number of mopeds is hard to come by, since they haven’t yet been regulated. But Wolkins said the vast majority of an estimated 100,000 mopeds on the road fit into the Class B category.
That worries some critics of his legislation, who cite a rising number of moped-related accidents. In 2013, State Police reported 1,271 people injured in moped accidents on state highways – up from 728 four years earlier. That doesn’t include moped-related accidents on local roads.
But Wolkins points to the demand for mopeds: More than 550,000 Hoosiers cannot legally drive a car because their licenses are suspended for a range of traffic and non-traffic offenses, according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
To help make his case to colleagues in the General Assembly, Wolkins visited his local community corrections program, which houses ex-offenders on work release. They’re incarcerated at night but allowed to work – if they have a way to get there – during the day. He snapped a line of mopeds outside the facility, then had the image blown up to poster size to show to other legislators.
“These are people who need their mopeds,” he siad. “They have no other way to get to work. And if they don’t get to work, they lose their jobs. ... Is that what we want for people trying to get their lives back on track?”
Bill Watson, head of Vigo County Community Corrections, said he sees the same need. On a recent morning, he counted 18 mopeds in his facility’s bike racks. Ex-offenders in his work-release program often share their mopeds, he said. Those leaving the program trade or sell the vehicles to new people arriving.
Watson said some in the program drive their mopeds up to 30 miles, round-trip, to work.
“We know the state needs to get a handle on these mopeds because they’re everywhere,” he said. “But there are guys here who if they have to give up their mopeds, they’d have to give up their jobs.”