Pennsylvania Scooter Laws
If you’ve visited Baltimore, Hoboken, New York City, Plainfield, Keyport, or Washington, D.C., you may have seen people zipping around on electric scooters. These scooters are a lot of fun, and are a low-cost way of getting around. So why don’t we have them in Pennsylvania?
The answer is relatively straightforward: Pennsylvania law does not permit electric scooters to be operated on its sidewalks or roads at the present time. However, this may change, sparking hope that Pennsylvania will soon join other states in having Lime, Bird and other types of dockless scooters available for rent.
Yet despite the cool factor of having electric scooters in your city or town, there is an aspect of danger. Riding an electric scooter presents certain risks, particularly if you aren’t wearing a helmet or if you are a novice rider. If you are injured in an electric scooter accident, a seasoned Philadelphia personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover for your losses.
How Does Pennsylvania Law Treat Electric Scooters?
Pennsylvania does not currently have a specific law that governs electric scooters. Instead, electric scooters are considered “motor-driven cycles.” These vehicles are defined as
“A motorcycle, including a motor scooter, with a motor which produces not to exceed five brake horsepower.”
Because electric scooters are considered motor-driven cycles under Pennsylvania law, they must comply with the laws and regulations applicable to motorcycles. This means that an electric scooter must be titled and registered and have proper insurance. It must also have the necessary equipment to pass insurance, such as turn signals, fenders, and lights.
Even if an electric scooter could meet these requirements, it could not be operated on roadways unless it were not powerful enough to keep up with other traffic. Under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, individuals are not permitted to drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed so as to impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic.
As a result, electric scooters are effectively banned in Pennsylvania. Electric scooters must be titled and registered, but as they do not comply with the equipment and inspection requirements for motor vehicles they cannot be titled or registered. They cannot be operated on roadways or streets in Pennsylvania.
However, Pennsylvania law does allow for the operation of “electric personal assortative mobility devices,” or EPAMD. This law specifically relates to devices such as Segways, where the wheels are not in tandem. EPAMDs are legally permitted to be operated on sidewalks and roads in Pennsylvania, unless specifically prohibited by local ordinance.
Will Pennsylvania's Electric Scooter Laws Change?
While Pennsylvania currently does not permit the operation of electric scooters anywhere in the state, two legislators hope that this will change. State Representatives Greg Rothman and Stephen Kinsey have proposed House Bill 631 (HB 631), a bill that would amend the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code to define “electric low-speed scooters.”
According to Representatives Rothman and Kinsey, these scooters provide innovative, low-cost transportation to millions of riders across the United States. Allowing their use in Pennsylvania would relieve traffic congestion and pollution.
If the bill were to become law, the vehicle code would be expanded to include a definition of electric low-speed scooter as a device weighing less than 100 pounds with two or three wheels. This type of scooter would be powered by electric motor and/or human power, with a maximum speed of no more than 20 miles per hour on a paved level surface. A scooter would have a floorboard, handlebars and an electric motor.
Under HB 631, electric scooters would be exempt from the title and registration requirements. Generally, people riding electric scooters would have the same rights and obligations as those riding bicycles. However, their use would be limited to people aged 16 and older.
In addition, scooters could not be operated at a speed greater than 15 miles per hour, and must have lamps and reflectors. The lamps and reflectors must be used at times of low light. Finally, the scooters cannot be used on freeways.
Although some support the use of e-scooters in Pennsylvania, others — like the city of Philadelphia — are adamantly opposed to the use of these scooters. In October 2018, Philadelphia enacted a ban on the use of electric scooters due to concerns about traffic fatalities and congestion. If HB 631 becomes law, it may change that reality.
The Risks of Electric Scooters
The use of electric scooters in cities across the United States is relatively new. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already undertaken a study on the dangers associated with these scooters.
According to the study, over an 87 day period in Austin, Texas, 271 people were identified as being injured in an e-scooter accident; their injuries were serious enough to warrant medical treatment in an emergency department. The majority (45%) of those interviewed suffered head injuries, while others suffered upper extremity fractures (27%) and lower extremity fractures (12%). 20% of those interviewed were hospitalized due to their injuries.
Most injuries involving electric scooters happened on the street (52%), and 18% involved motor vehicles. Fewer than 1% of all riders reported helmet use. Based on the CDC’s data, the injury incidence rate was 14.3 per 100,000 trips.
While this study is relatively limited, it does present a picture of how injuries and accidents happen when using electric scooters. Most people hop on these scooters without a helmet, and ride them on the street — where they are more likely to be hit by a car than on the sidewalk. Given these conditions, it isn’t surprising that so many riders suffer head injuries.
Work with a Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney
Although electric scooters are not currently legal to ride in Pennsylvania, that day appears to be fast approaching. It is important to remember that while they are fun, electric scooters also present serious safety risks, particularly if you aren’t wearing a helmet. If you are injured while riding an e-scooter, you may be able to file a claim, including against a driver who hit you while you were on a scooter.
The experienced legal professionals of Mattiacci Law believe that each of our clients deserves a passionate advocate who is devoted to helping them achieve justice. We are highly experienced, with nearly 20 years of practice in personal injury law — and the results to prove our skill. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Philadelphia personal injury attorney, contact us today at 215-914-6919 or email us.