Electric scooters are becoming a big hit throughout the country. Placed in cities by companies like Bird and Lime, customers can use their phone to find the nearest scooter and pay a minimal rental fee to ride it wherever they need to go. They can stop wherever they want and leave the scooter for the next customer to use. This new method of transportation has been especially popular in downtowns and other areas where a person needs to travel a fairly short distance in a congested area.
As good as environmentally friendly and cheap travel sounds, these scooters have also caused some headaches. Customers have been known to leave the scooters sprawled out in the middle of walkways or even in the road; some pranksters like to leave scooters in ridiculous—and oftentimes dangerous—locations as a joke, creating a new form of litter. Pedestrians now find themselves competing with scooter riders for space on the sidewalks. Some customers have been caught driving underage or under the influence. Automobile, bus and light-rail drivers now have yet another type of traveler they must keep an eye out for. Tempe recently saw scooter related accidents triple after introducing more of them to the area. Instead of the companies that introduced the scooters, it is local law enforcement that is often stuck cleaning up these messes.
There are also some interesting legal challenges that will have to be fleshed out over time as more scooter related accidents occur. For example, while most automobile drivers who negligently cause a collision will have liability coverage on their automobile insurance policy, it is more of a grey area as to whether a scooter company is going to insure a person who causes an accident or gets injured on the company's scooter.
For better or worse, scooters arrived in downtown Tucson in 2019. Scooters can only be rented by adults and will only go up to 15mph. In addition, riders are only allowed to ride in bike lanes or on the road, and scooters have to be parked in areas with at least 4 feet of space that does not block traffic. If a rider parks the scooter in an unauthorized area, that rider will be fined; the scooter company will have two hours to remove the scooter from the unauthorized area or be fined as well. The University of Arizona has banned the use of scooters on campus, but is open to rethinking its position if all goes well.
For safety's sake, here are some things to consider if you decide to try this trendy mode of transportation:
- Wear a helmet.
- Uber if you are going to drink. Using a scooter is not a safe alternative.
- Walk the crosswalks.
- Do not ride across the light-rail tracks
- Always yield to pedestrians
- Don't ride on the sidewalks.
- Be considerate of where you put the scooter when you are done using it and make sure it is upright. Ensure it is not obstructing a walkway or a roadway. Ask yourself, “Is the way I left this scooter a potential tripping hazard for other people?”
- Check the rules if you are in a different area. Gilbert, for example, allows scooter riders to ride on the sidewalk and prohibits them from riding in the bike lane.
- Check the contract you have with the company you are renting the scooter from to see what situations—if any—they insure you for in the event of an accident.
Were you or a loved one seriously injured in a scooter rental accident? If so, please contact Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian today.