Although electric scooters are hardly a new technology, they have enjoyed a modern-day resurgence among tech entrepreneurs looking to create the next Uber-type disruption in the marketplace. Just recently the New York Times reported that Bird Rides Inc., one of the companies leading the new wave of scooter rental services, plans to raise an additional $300 million in venture capital this year. Services like Bird allow customers to “unlock” scooters placed throughout a given city for a nominal fee.
Cities Limit Growth of Scooters Due to Safety Concerns
But the rapid increase in motorized scooters on city streets and sidewalks also raises serious public safety concerns. While many states require anyone riding a scooter to have a valid driver’s license and wear a helmet, web-based rental services have no way to check the latter. Nor can companies like Bird stop customers from operating scooters on public sidewalks, which often violate local laws and place pedestrians at higher risk for injury if there is a collision.
There is also the problem of scooter “littering.” Bird and its competitors direct customers to simply abandon their scooters when they are finished using them. In many cases this means leaving scooters in public places without any regard for the safety hazard created. This littering problem is so great that some cities, notably San Francisco, now impose $100 fines for any scooter left unattended in public.
Indeed, according to an article in the UK-based technology publication The Register, San Francisco has banned scooter rental services outright. The city plans to introduce one-year “trial permits” for scooters in the future, which will be subject to strict caps on the total number of vehicles allowed.
Closer to home, some Florida localities have also taken proactive measures to promote safety in scooter rentals. For example, in October 2014 the City of Panama Beach in Bay County adopted stricter scooter regulations following an “almost 80 percent jump in accidents,” according to the Tampa Tribune. Among other things, Panama Beach now requires scooter rental companies to carry liability insurance and provide riders with safety vests and additional safety information.
Scootering Under the Influence
Another emerging issue for local law enforcement is “scootering while intoxicated.” Once again, while smartphone apps make it easy to rent a scooter, it cannot determine whether a customer is too inebriated to safely operate a motorized vehicle. And in most jurisdictions, a DUI is still a DUI even when the vehicle is a scooter.
In fact, on June 11 of this year, police in San Diego, California, arrested a 41-year-old man for “allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol” on a rented scooter. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the man was not wearing a helmet when he crashed his scooter “into the path of a car.” Fortunately, it appears nobody else was injured in the accident.
Dealing with Defective Scooters
Beyond the question of how to deal with negligent scooter drivers, there’s also the issue of whether the vehicles themselves are safe. Elsewhere in California, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported on June 12 about the increasing number of brake failures experienced by rental scooters. The Daily Press interviewed a 56-year-old mechanic hired by Bird as an independent contractor to repair its scooters. The mechanic said she was “badly injured” when one of the scooters assigned to her suffered brake failure and sent her “flying down the sidewalk.”
The reality is that like any other type of motor vehicle, defectively designed and poorly maintained scooters can seriously injure–and potentially kill–individuals, especially when they do not have the proper training or support. If you have questions or concerns about scooter safety, or you have been involved in an accident and require advice, you should contact an experienced Miami personal injury lawyer as soon as possible or give them a call at (305)-371-2692.