California recently enacted new legislation to govern the use of electric scooters to protected riders and others.
Starting in 2016, hoverboarders in California will have to worry about more than just a little fall. In an effort to cut down on the risk of injuries, California lawmakers passed a law that restricts the use of hoverboards and other self-balancing scooters.
The new regulations require that riders be at least 16 years old to ride in public. Riders also must wear a helmet, and can only ride on streets where the speed limit is under 35 miles an hour. The boards themselves must have safety equipment, such as lights or reflective gear for night use. Finally, riders may not operate the boards while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The law intends to treat the electric boards similar to bicycles, and have them utilize the same lanes. The law does not limit riders on sidewalks, however, individual cities may decide to place further restrictions on sidewalks. San Francisco, for example, does not allow electric scooter use on sidewalks anywhere in the city.
Pedestrians complain that the new devices are dangerous in shared walkways. Frequent collisions between pedestrians and riders have caused cities and business owners to ban the devices in other areas. The University of California, Los Angeles, for example, recently banned scooters from walkways and hallways in an attempt to avoid collisions.
Potential for injury
New users of hoverboards may forget how dangerous they really are. Models vary, but some can move faster than 10 miles an hour. At that speed, falls can easily mean cuts, bruises, sprains, and even broken bones. Further, some models have been found to start electrical fires, explode, or cause other fire hazards.
Aside from following all state and local regulations on use, there are several things riders should do to minimize the risk of serious injury. First, riders should avoid distraction while operating the board-texting, listening to music, and just zoning out can limit a rider's ability to notice hazards. Particularly as cars, bikers, and pedestrians are still adjusting to the new product, and may not be as quick to recognize a potential collision. Additionally, riders should be very aware of road/sidewalk based hazards such as potholes, bumps, or uneven pavement. Finally, all riders should practice in an open, safe area prior to taking the hoverboard out in crowded streets. Just like riding a bike, it takes practice and familiarity to safely operate an electric scooter.
The new California law takes effect January 1st, 2016.