Electric skateboards are the newest trending item; well, next to fidget spinners that is. In most major cities across the world, students, office workers, and recreational riders are zipping along on their motorized, electric long boards. This increasingly popular method of transportation offers a quick, economical way to get from place to place. With speeds up to 25 mph, electric skateboards are faster, and less physically demanding than bicycles, making them the perfect choice for short jaunts across town. But, the increase in popularity has led to an increase in accidents and injuries. This has brought up the questions of how these electric skateboards should be governed, exactly where these boards should be allowed, and who should be allowed to ride them.
Should these boards be considered motorized vehicles?
Opinions vary about how to classify electric skateboards. Yes, they do have a motor, but should they be classified as motor vehicles? What qualifies any vehicle as a motor vehicle? That depends who you ask.
Webster’s dictionary defines a motor vehicle as “a vehicle on wheels powered by a motor, not traveling on rails or tracks.” The motorized, electric skateboard technically fits the definition, but is an electric skateboard really a motor vehicle, and should it be regulated like a motor vehicle?
That is the million dollar question, and how it is answered seems to be the deciding factor when laws are passed regulating electric skateboard use.
In the United States, every state and certain major municipalities, can pass and enforce laws designed to protect public safety. Has every state passed a law regulating electric skateboard use? No, actually very few states have even addressed the issue.
The state of Texas puts electric skateboards in the same classification as motorized bicycles. The law states that they are not allowed on pedestrian walkways, but may travel in bike lanes if traveling under 20 mph.
Florida has a similar law in place. Florida defines a motorized personal mobility device as a motorized vehicle on wheels with a maximum output of 750 W and traveling no more than 20 mph. The law states that these vehicles may travel in bike lanes and on sidewalks, as long as they give pedestrians the right of way. The original law was written to govern the use of Segways on sidewalks and boardwalks. Electric skateboards have just gotten lumped into the same category. So, a law does exist, sort of.
California, being the forward thinking state that it is, actually created a law to regulate the use of motorized, electric skateboards. California law AB604 classifies a motorized skateboard as “an electrically motorized board…less than 1000 watts…with a speed less than 20mph…powered by an electric motor”. Under this rule, these boards are only allowed to be used in bike lanes.
So, what happens if there is no law in place where you plan to ride? Does that mean you can just go out and have a good time with no worries? NO! The old saying about ignorance of the law being no excuse certainly applies here. You are better off to assume that there is some kind of regulation and check with the proper authorities. Just because you don’t see a no electric skateboards sign, that doesn’t mean you can ride down the middle of the main street. Always check with local police or city offices to see where your electric skateboard is allowed. It would be a real shame to have your board confiscated and receive a citation for $50 or $100 dollars.
Problems with the laws
Most of the laws regulate use of boards with under 1000 watts of power and a top speed of less than 20 mph. This covers the majority of electric skateboards available, but what about the ones that it doesn’t cover? One of the most popular boards, the Boosted Board features 2000 watts of power and travels 22 mph. High end boards, like the Evolve Carbon can travel over 30 mph and have motors offering 3000 watts of power. Does this mean you can’t use these boards in states with electric skateboard laws? There certainly seems to be a grey area in interpretation of the law. As faster, more powerful boards become available, this is likely to become more of a problem.
Deciding where to ride
So, where do you ride your electric skateboard without breaking the law? It is probably safe to assume that you can use your electric skateboard in a skate park, but if you are in doubt you should ask for permission.
Places not to use your board include major highways, crowded sidewalks, or inside shopping malls. Use your common sense. If there is heavy pedestrian or vehicle traffic, you are endangering yourself and others by riding where you shouldn’t be. Many New York City pedestrians report being bothered by electric skateboard riders, many of whom are commuting to jobs or subway connections.
Regulations regarding riders
Most people will say there are not enough rules to really control the use of electric skateboards as a method of transportation. What about recreational use? Should there be strict laws regarding who can use these boards? While there are no strict laws governing rider age for recreational motorized skateboard use, most of the major manufacturers do recommended a minimum rider age to use their product. For some boards, such as the Dynacraft Surge, the recommended age is 8 years old. This stiff, slow moving board is better suited for young children or beginners. Faster, more powerful boards carry higher age recommendations. For example, the Metroboard, which travels 24 mph, suggests that riders be over the age of 16. A recent study reported the majority of skateboard accidents affected riders from 9-19 years of age. Traditional skateboard accidents were more frequent, but electric skateboard accidents were much more severe. Electric skateboard riders are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries and broken bones. Even experienced riders reported injuries. No matter what age or experience level you are, ALWAYS wear an approved safety helmet.
Find Your States Specific Laws
Motorized electric skateboards are becoming more popular, all over the world. New laws will likely be passed to regulate their use, just as laws were passed when electric scooters and Segways became popular. Electric skateboard riders should be ask about laws, be considerate of pedestrians, use common sense when riding, and wear the proper safety equipment. If you do these things, you will have many pleasurable hours of riding. If not, you might end up breaking a law you didn’t even know existed.
Keays, G., and A. Dumas. “Longboard and Skateboard Injuries.” Injury. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2014. Web. 24 June 2017.
Motor Vehicle Dictionary Definition | Motor Vehicle Defined. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017.
Nesia. “Specifications.” Metroboard Electric Skateboard. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017.