E-Scooter Laws: What to Know Before You Ride

Learn how traffic laws apply to electric scooters, whether your insurance will cover you after an accident, and more.

By , J.D. · Villanova University School of Law
Updated by Charles Crain, Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

Electric scooters are affordable, easy to use, and often environment-friendly, so it's easy to see why they're so popular. Before hopping on an e-scooter, you should make sure you know how the law works in the areas where you want to ride. You should also understand the basics of how legal liability and insurance coverage generally work when someone has an accident on an e-scooter.

E-Scooter Laws and Rules: The Basics

The laws and regulations for e-scooters and their riders vary from state to state, and even between different municipalities in the same state. Here are some of the key rules to check before you ride.

How the law classifies e-scooters. Each state makes its own rules for defining e-scooters and distinguishing them from other kinds of vehicles (like mopeds, motorcycles, and gas-powered scooters). Connecticut, for example, classifies "electric foot scooters" by, among other things, limiting them to a weight of 75 pounds and a maximum speed of 20 MPH. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-1(32) (2023).)

It's important to check the details. Under Florida state law, for instance, any scooter with a maximum speed of 20 MPH or less is treated the same as a bicycle. But Florida also allows municipalities to make their own rules for e-scooters. So a particular city or town can have different rules for e-scooters than it does for bikes. (Fla. Stat. § 316.2128 (2023).)

E-scooter licensing and registration requirements. Knowing how your state classifies e-scooters will help you understand how its licensing and registration rules apply to you. Colorado, for example doesn't require e-scooter riders to have licenses or to register their scooters. But the state has different rules for so-called "low-power scooters." Colorado distinguishes these vehicles from e-scooters based on, among other things, their engine power and their top speed. You need a driver's license to operate a low-power scooter in Colorado, and the vehicle must be registered. (Colo. Rev. Stats. §§ 42-1-102 (28.8) and (48.5) (2023).)

If you're not sure how your state's requirements apply to your scooter, you may be able to find out by contacting the department of motor vehicles or speaking with a local attorney.

Whether you can ride e-scooters on streets and sidewalks. This issue is often dictated by state and local law.

In many states, including California, riders are prohibited from operating electric scooters on sidewalks, except to park or access the street.

Some states leave the decision to local governments. In Pennsylvania, for example, e-scooters are allowed on sidewalks unless a municipality passes an ordinance restricting their use. (75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3703(c).)

You should learn the local rules and also be on the lookout for traffic signs that apply to you and your e-scooter.

E-scooter helmet laws. Helmet requirements for e-scooters can vary within a state based on location and on the age of the rider. For example:

  • California does not require adults to wear helmets on e-scooters, but has a statewide law requiring helmets for riders under age 18. (Veh. Code § 21235(c) (2023).)
  • Washington State has no statewide helmet requirement, but requires e-scooter riders to obey the same local helmet laws that apply to bicycle riders. (Rev. Code § 46.37.530(c) (2023).)

Other e-scooter rules you should know. States and municipalities have laws covering how to ride safely and responsibly. These include:

  • Speed limits for e-scooters. In Virginia it's illegal to ride an e-scooter faster than 20 MPH. In Dallas, Texas, the city-wide maximum speed for e-scooters is 20 MPH, but there are special zones where the speed limit is reduced to 10 MPH.
  • Age requirements. Children under a certain age may be barred from riding e-scooters or subject to special rules. Dallas does not allow anyone under age 16 to use the city's e-scooter rental service. Virginia requires riders under 14 to be supervised by an adult. (Code § 46.2-908.1 (2023).)

When to Expect a Settlement If You've Been Hit By a Car While Riding an E-Scooter

It's possible that you'll receive a settlement (through insurance or a lawsuit) if you're hurt an an e-scooter accident. But remember that, in most situations, e-scooter riders are expected to play by the same set of rules that apply to car drivers. There may be special exemptions and rules for scooters, but it's not a situation where other drivers must simply look out for you while you operate your scooter in whatever manner you see fit.

So, in a lot of ways, responsibility for an e-scooter accident will come down to an analysis of the same factors that decide the viability of any injury claim after a car accident.

Who was at fault for the accident? Did the other driver violate a traffic law in connection with the accident? Do you have accident witnesses who will corroborate your side of the story, and strengthen your case for the driver's negligence?

Do you have proof of your injuries or other losses? If you're claiming that you were injured in the accident, it's crucial to have medical records that document those injuries and verify the fact that you sought prompt medical attention after the accident.

Does the at-fault driver carry a sufficient amount of car insurance coverage? If not, you can still file a claim or lawsuit against the driver, but you may be in for a tougher fight. Learn more about what happens if you're in a car accident with an uninsured driver.

Using Insurance to Protect Against E-Scooter Accidents

It can be more complicated to cover the costs of an e-scooter accident than a car accident, even if the incident wasn't your fault.

Several types of insurance could come into play after an e-scooter accident:

  • Health insurance can help cover the costs of your medical bills if you're injured in an accident.
  • Automobile insurance will not usually provide any liability coverage when operating an electric scooter, since it doesn't usually apply to vehicles with fewer than four wheels.
  • Homeowners' or renters' insurance may provide liability coverage, even while outside the home. However, there will likely be exclusions or limitations when the liability arises from an accident involving a vehicle, such as a scooter.
  • Personal liability umbrella insurance kicks in when other forms of insurance have reached their policy limits or if an event occurs that's otherwise excluded from other coverage. Depending on the umbrella policy's terms, there could be liability protection in the event of an electric scooter accident.
  • Scooter insurance may be offered by some insurance companies, or may be an offshoot of a motorcycle insurance policy.

Keep in mind that not all of these options are guaranteed to provide the coverage you need. Make sure you've read your policies—including any fine print that might be important—so you know what to expect if there's an accident.

When E-Scooter Manufacturers and Rental Companies Might Be Liable

It's common for companies that manufacture electric scooters, or rent them to the public, to include notices that they aren't responsible for accidents that happen while people are using their products. This doesn't mean it's impossible to recover damages from one of these companies, but it can make it much more difficult.

The law assumes that people accept certain risks when they use a product like an e-scooter. For example, there's always some risk that you could fall, or get knocked over by a pedestrian or driver. To show that the e-scooter company is legally responsible you'd have to show that the scooter caused the accident—for example, because it malfunctioned or was poorly designed.

An e-scooter company will be looking for ways to show that you were the one responsible for your own injuries. You can stay safer, and also preserve your legal options, by making sure you follow state and local laws for e-scooters.

You should also follow the instructions for riding an e-scooter, whether it's one you've bought or one you're renting from a company like Lime or Bird. For example, Lime has rules and requirements for people who rent their e-scooters, including obeying the law, riding responsibly, and performing safety checks.

Learn More About E-Scooter Law and Liability Rules

Before riding an electric scooter, make sure you're familiar with local law, and that you know how your insurance coverage will work if there's an accident. If you've been hurt and you think your accident might have been caused by a dangerous or defective e-scooter, you can learn more about what you'd need to prove in a product liability lawsuit. If you have other questions about how the law applies to your situation, consider reaching out to an attorney.

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