The personal injury and wrongful death law practice of The Law Offices of Mauro Fiore, Jr. includes representing plaintiffs in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California who are injured in accidents involving scooters, Segways, and other motorized vehicles. As gas prices continue to rise, the popularity of motorized scooters has increased.
When dealing with motorized vehicles, it is easy to confuse a child’s toy from a fully-operational motor vehicle. Most Mopeds are street legal everywhere, and some have the power to be ridden on highways and even have top speeds over 100 miles per hour. While pocket bikes such as mini-choppers and mini-ninjas may look like toys, only the electric models are recommended for children. Gas-powered pocket bikes are miniature motorcycles that can easily achieve highway speeds and come with the same or greater risks as full-sized motorbikes.
Segways in Los Angeles, CA
The Segway Personal Transporter is a two-wheeled, self-stabilizing transportation device. Despite its novelty, the Segway is a motorized vehicle. Operation of a Segway, therefore, comes with all the risks associated with any other motorized vehicle. Falls from Segways or collisions with other motor vehicles can result in serious injuries, from open compound fractures to traumatic brain injury (TBI), or spinal cord injury causing partial to complete paralysis including paraplegia and quadriplegia.
Common uses of Segways include municipal law enforcement personnel and factory/warehouse employees in large commercial operations. Due to their cost and safety concerns (Segways was the subject of a recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2003, after several people were injured in falls from Segways, including one head wound requiring several stitches), Segways still remain somewhat of a novelty among the general public. However, that novelty is wearing off as public awareness of Segways increases. For instance, guided tours using Segways are currently being operated in several cities around the world, including San Francisco, California.
Street-Legal Segways in Los Angeles California
Prior to Segways, motorized vehicles were barred from being operated on city sidewalks almost everywhere for safety reasons. Now, due to heavy lobbying by the Segway industry, more than half the states have “Segway-friendly” sidewalks. Given that Segways are still a novel invention to most people, their use on crowded sidewalks could pose significant dangers to their operators and to the foot-traveling public. Although the laws allowing Segways are clearly written with the Segway in mind, other motorized scooters and contraptions may fall within the legal definition of allowable vehicles, increasing the volume of motorized traffic and the risk of accidents on sidewalks and in the streets at busy intersections.
Segways and California Law
Under California law, electric personal assistive mobility devices (EPAMDs) may be operated on city sidewalks, as well as bike lanes, streets, roads, and highways, at a “reasonable and prudent speed having due regard for weather, visibility, pedestrians, and other conveyance traffic,” as well as the surface conditions of the roadway. What constitutes a “reasonable and prudent speed” is not explained, except that people are forbidden to operate EPAMDs at speeds that endanger the safety of persons or property, or with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. The EPAMD must include front, rear, and side reflectors, a headlamp, and a horn, as mandatory safety equipment.
The law further requires EPAMD operators to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, including persons with disabilities using assistive devices and service animals. Given that Segways can travel three to four times as fast as the average person walks, it may be difficult for the Segway rider to yield the right of way on a crowded sidewalk.
While California’s Vehicle Code does not mention the Segway by name, it is clear what is being referred to. An EPAMD is defined in the law as a “self-balancing, nontandem two-wheeled device, that is not greater than 20 inches deep and 25 inches wide and can turn in place, designed to transport only one person, with an electric propulsion system average less than 750 watts (1 horsepower), the maximum speed of which, when powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved level surface, is not more than 12.5 miles per hour.”
Although State law provides for lawful Segway use on all roads and sidewalks, it also gives cities and counties the authority to regulate the time, place and manner of their operation, including prohibiting their use in specified areas or entirely, if deemed necessary to the safety of pedestrians, including seniors and persons with disabilities. State agencies may likewise limit or prohibit their use on state property if they so choose.