When considering the purchase of an electric scooter, most consumers want to know whether it will be legal for them to operate it. The answer varies depending on how and where the electric scooter will be used. In regard to where the scooter will be ridden, consumers need to consider more than if the bike will be operated on the sidewalks, neighborhood streets, or major thoroughfares; but also in what city and state as well.
Electric scooters can vary by type, making regulation of this class of personal vehicle difficult. Scooters are all two wheeled, step-through designed, with handle bar steering. However, many variations exist beyond these basic characteristics.
Some electric scooters require the operator to stand and others have seats, they also vary in size from kid-friendly sizes to full-size scooters that can easily carry two grown adults. The power output of electric scooters also ranges from 8 or 12 miles per hour (in models for children) to road worthy scooters that can reach highway speeds.
Smaller electric scooters, usually designed for recreational operation, will lack features like turn signals and brake lights, while larger electric scooters will include these features and others like horns and fog lights.
Children's Electric Scooters
No matter if the scooter is seated or not ,most electric scooters designed for children younger than age 16 will not exceed 15 miles per hour. These scooter types are designed for recreation only, and many cities and states outlaw their operation on any public street. Some cities will allow their operation in residential areas; streets with a posted speed limit of 25 mph or less. Because they lack many of the standard operational safety features, their operation is best limited for sidewalks and local parks.
Neighborhood Electric Scooters
This scooter type that operates within the 15 to 25 mph range will range in size a bit to accommodate young teens to adults, and will generally have safety features that make it "street legal." However, most state public safety legislation will only allow these electric vehicles to be operated on neighborhood or residential streets with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less. You will need to consult your local department of public safety to determine if this type of vehicle and the operator needs to be licensed for use on the public roads.
Full-Sized Electric Scooters
With the considerable interest in reducing the number of emission producing vehicles on the road, a number of companies have begun producing "full-sized" electric scooters. These scooters are all designed as seated and step-through. They have operational safety features comparable to motorcycles and gas powered scooters or mopeds. Many electric scooters of this type will easily achieve from 25 to 65 mph. All electric scooters of this type need to be licensed and registered just like their gas powered counterparts. Operators of this type of scooter will also need to obtain a motorcycle operators' license.
Although specific laws for the operation of electric scooters will vary from state to state, there are general laws regarding electric scooter usage you can expect to encounter in every state; primarily because they apply to gas powered and electric models. For example:
You must be at least 16 to operate a scooter on a public road. Operators of a 50cc (30 mph or higher) scooter must have a class E operator's license. Annual registration is required. You may not operate a street legal scooter on sidewalks or bike paths, Operators of scooters do not have to carry PIP insurance. Operators 16 or older are not required to wear helmets.
Malik Sharrieff is a marketing and business communications professional in New Orleans. He has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, public relations and customer relationship management; over eight years of experience as an academic writer; and as an online journalist for two years.