After the success of ride-sharing companies such as Uber or Lyft, other forms of shared transportation have begun to emerge. Bike sharing programs are popular among urban commuters. These bikes can be found around major cities and rented by downloading an app and inputting credit card information.
Most recently, electric scooters have started to become popular for moving about town, particularly among younger residents. As more electric scooters show up on the roads and sidewalks of cities, there is an increased risk of accidents between scooters, pedestrians and car drivers. This guide looks at how electric scooters work, the risks and laws associated with them and what happens when you’re in an accident involving an electric scooter.
What Are Electric Scooters?
Electric scooters are similar to non-motorized kick scooters with two wheels, such as Razor scooters, except that they are motorized. Powered by a battery pack, these electric scooters can be left in any public space where they aren’t blocking sidewalks or other walkways. Scooter companies such as Bird, Lime and Skip allow you to rent the scooters by downloading an app to your smartphone which shows a map of nearby available scooters.
You then input your credit card information and scan your chosen scooter’s barcode to unlock it. The app uses GPS to track your distance and time. When you reach your destination, you end the ride in the app and your credit card is charged per mile or minute, depending on the company policy of the scooter you use.
Potential Hazards of Electric Scooters
Although there are currently no official reports on the numbers of injuries caused by electric scooters, many doctors and emergency room employees are reporting an increase in injuries from scooters. Many electric scooters travel up to 15 miles an hour, which is more than enough to cause a major injury in a collision.
Electric scooters can pose a variety of hazards for riders, drivers and pedestrians alike. The scooters are generally small and quiet, making them difficult to be seen or heard by car drivers. Additionally, since the scooters have small wheels and riders have a higher center of gravity, the scooters aren’t as stable as a bicycle. Small bumps in the road can cause a scooter rider to lose balance and fall.
Many injuries can result from improper use or lack of experience riding scooters. There is no required training or specialized license required to rent the scooters. In addition, the scooters were designed to allow increased mobility on a whim for pedestrians. This leads many riders to not use proper safety equipment, including a helmet, when they rent the scooter.
Are There Laws for Electric Scooters?
Although there are no federal laws specifically for electric scooter users, many cities across the country have developed laws related to scooter use and safety. In California, state law requires anyone under the age of 18 years old to wear a helmet while riding an electric scooter. Additionally, many of the scooter companies do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to ride their scooters. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, are considering laws that would require helmets for all riders.
California state law also allows scooters to only travel on roadways with speed limits up to 35 miles per hour. Scooter are permitted, however, on high-speed roads if there is a designated bike lane. Much like bicycles, scooters are not supposed to be ridden on the sidewalk. Scooter riders should ride on roadways, in bike lanes when available, and follow normal traffic rules.
Other rules for scooter use can include one passenger per scooter and/or possession of a valid driver’s license. Many cities require that scooters not be parked in walkways or other areas where they obstruct pedestrian traffic.
Who Is Responsible for Damages in an Electric Scooter Accident?
Even using safety precautions such as helmets and following traffic laws, electric scooter riders and car drivers face the possibility of an accident. When an accident between a scooter and car occurs, you might wonder who is liable for any damages caused. Much like accidents involving two cars, the at-fault party in a scooter accident will likely vary based on the situation.
Car Driver Hits a Scooter Rider
When a driver hits a scooter rider due to negligence, such as failing to yield or not checking their surroundings before accelerating, the driver is at fault. This means that the driver of the car is probably responsible for covering any damages done to the scooter and/or injuries sustained by the rider. For example, if a driver rolls through a stop sign and hits a scooter rider, causing a broken arm, the driver is most likely required to pay for the costs of medical attention. Car insurance usually covers some or all of the costs through liability coverage. Liability coverage is mandatory for California drivers.
Scooter Rider Causes Accident for Car Driver
If a scooter rider suddenly turns into the road without warning and a car driver is forced to swerve out of the way, any accident caused by the driver’s swerving may be the fault of the negligent scooter rider. The scooter rider might be liable for any damage to the vehicles that were involved in the accident. More importantly, the scooter rider may also be liable for the injuries, disability, or death of anyone involved in the accident caused by their negligence.
Scooter Rider Hits a Vehicle
A scooter rider that is not paying attention or loses control of their scooter and runs into a vehicle is likely responsible for the accident. They may be required to pay for damages to the vehicle and/or medical bills of any injured vehicle passengers.
Does My Insurance Cover Electric Scooters?
Although some cities are requiring scooter companies to carry some liability coverage for people who rent their scooters, it is not currently required by law. This means that many of the scooter companies do not offer insurance when you ride their scooters. In fact, most of the user agreements for the scooters require the renter to agree to waive any liability the company may have.
Although homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies offer some liability coverage, this coverage often excludes motorized vehicles. The electric scooters, being self-propelled, are usually considered motorized and therefore are not covered. Likewise, most car insurance policies exclude coverage for vehicles with less than four wheels. This means that your auto car insurance may not cover you if you’re in an accident while riding a scooter. On the other hand, if you are a driver involved in an electric scooter accident, your auto insurance policy likely covers you for any liability you may have.
Protecting Yourself from Scooter Accidents
To protect yourself in a scooter accident as a rider, remember to always wear a helmet when riding. Never ride on sidewalks and try to stay in bike lanes when they are available. Obey all traffic signals and laws and be sure to drive defensively to keep yourself as safe as possible. In addition, try to use scooters provided by companies that provide liability coverage in their User Agreements.
For vehicle drivers worried about accidents involving electric scooters, the best way to protect yourself is through focused driving. Be aware of your surroundings when driving in an area with scooters. Check if your car has safety features that may make it easier to drive safely, such as lane departure warnings or a blind spot detection. By staying aware and carrying the proper car insurance coverage limits, you can help yourself and electric scooter riders stay safe on the road.