California Legalizes Helmetless Scootering

California Legalizes Helmetless Scootering

California Legalizes Helmetless Scootering Despite Lime Fatality in Texas

Just as California was taking steps to legalize the use of helmetless scootering, a fatal accident involving Lime Scooters took place in Dallas, Texas.  This was the first fatality to be reported nationwide since these devices first started appearing on the streets of Southern California and then spreading throughout the country’s major cities like wildfire over the past year.  According to an article on the Dallas accident from the Washington Post, the incident took place when a young man was riding his Lime electric scooter home from the restaurant he works at late at night in early September.  The decedent, who was 24 years old, was helmetless scootering when he fell or was knocked off his scooter. He was found by emergency responders more than a hundred yards from his scooter, which was broken in half.  When originally found, he was unconscious and badly injured, but later died from his injuries. His death was ruled an accident, but an autopsy found that he died of blunt force trauma to his head. This incident calls into question whether California’s recent move to ban helmets is the right move for electric scooter riders, considering both the circumstances in which the Dallas decedent was found as well as the larger problem of drivers not giving sufficient room or respect to other types of vehicles on the road, whether they be electric scooters, mopeds, motorcycles, skateboards, bikes or pedestrians.  

What Are Electric Scooters?

The scooters manufactured by Lime, Bird, Skip and several other companies offer non-traditional ways of commuting. From mopeds to scooters, there’s an array of unique motorists taking over the streets of California.  These vehicles resemble a traditional scooter that’s powered by a person pushing their foot, in addition to the engine that also powers the scooter. These scooters were originally designed as a solution for the problem faced by many people who take public transit and are often late to their destination. The scooters are also being pushed in California as a means to reduce pollution and the use of minimal (or no) emission transportation in a state with notorious smog problems.

California’s New Law Regarding Stand-Up Electric Scooters

Although previously the state prohibited the use of electric scooters like that used by the deceased individual in Dallas without wearing a helmet, a recently passed law just signed by California governor Jerry Brown now permits individuals using the vehicles to elect not to wear a helmet if they are over the age of 18.  The helmetless scootering law also permits electric scooter riders to utilize the vehicles on streets where the speed limit is up to 35 mph if permitted by a local municipality.   Prior California law did not allow riders of motorized scooters to ride on sidewalks, carry passengers, or ride a scooter without a valid driver’s license. The law also allows room for cities to impose stricter requirements, such as Los Angeles, which requires that electric scooter companies advise riders they must wear helmets.  

As any cyclist or pedestrian can tell you, very rarely do motor vehicle drivers properly respect the rights of other individuals using different types of vehicles to share the road.  Therefore, although some groups are sure to focus on the lack of a helmet requirement under this new law, the practical effect was also not to increase the requirements on motor vehicle drivers when interacting with those on electric scooters and, consequently, the safety of individuals on electric scooters.  Just as is the case with those who may bike to work every day, electric scooter riders in California are likely to find that the use of these vehicles is dangerous for the very reason that cars may not given them sufficient room if they ride a scooter in the street or a motorist in a car even act aggressively towards someone on a scooter, increasing the chances of an accident in which the person on the scooter is most likely to be injured.

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