Due to a tragic accident last week involving a motorized mobility device, many have asked about rules of the road for these electric wheelchairs or scooters. In Alabama, those using this method of transport are considered pedestrians for lane guidance, etc.
Each state has its own rules, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with these statutes before visiting. The American Mobility Company offers this press release:
More of the population are turning to motorized mobility equipment as cheap electric scooters become more available, and as our senior population increases. As more elderly and infirm take to the highways on their mobility wheels, this is presenting some issues pertaining to their health and safety, and the safety of pedestrians.
There have been a number of incidents over the past few years of electric mobility scooter accidents on the highways. An influencing factor in this is that either electric scooters take to the highways where it is not safe alongside automobiles, or electric scooters are used on sidewalks where they can pose a risk to pedestrians.
Class 3 electric scooters are marketed as ‘highway worthy’ as they have lights and indicators and can travel at speeds of 8mph. If you planning on taking an electric scooter on the road you are highly recommended to familiarize yourself with any local or municipal legislation.
Many scooter users are surprised to discover that they are still classified as a pedestrian, and can therefore legally ride their scooter anywhere a pedestrian is allowed to walk. Although most cities and towns are very accommodating of electric scooters, this means that a scooter no more belongs in a traffic lane than a pedestrian. There are places and situations where a pedestrian must cross or be in a traffic lane, but these situations would only occur when crossing a roadway, or if the regular sidewalk is inaccessible. In both of these cases, the electric scooter rider should take the same precautions as any pedestrian, such as crossing only at intersections or crosswalks, ride the side of the road FACING traffic and exercise all the same caution as a pedestrian. That means that these scooters should not use traffic lanes, turning lanes or any part of the roadways reserved for motor vehicles.
Generally the laws for electric assistive mobility devices are similar to the operation of bicycles. Where highway legislation refers to a “Moped” this refers to any vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground that has (i) a seat that is no less than 24 inches in height, measured from the middle of the seat perpendicular to the ground and (ii) gasoline, electric, or hybrid motor that displaces less than 50 cubic centimeters. Obviously this is where the law can sometimes not adequately stipulate legislation governing four-wheel electric scooters.
Unfortunately, due to the poor state of sidewalks in some states, more and more electric scooter users are forced onto our roadways. If you are an electric scooter user, and at times need to use a roadway, ensure you make your scooter as visible as possible. Add reflector stripping, a tall bright pennant and other visibility aids such as cyclists do.
You should check with your state Division of Motor Vehicles so that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities.
Disclaimer: This article is provided solely as guidance and does not constitute legal advice. You are responsible for knowing and following the laws that pertain to electric scooter use in your local area or state.