Electric scooters are fast becoming the most popular way to cruise around cities in the USA. They're environmentally friendly, less expensive than cars and you don't have to worry about cramming yourself between strangers on public transport.
Yes, many people are embracing e-scooters, including teens, hipsters, and corporate executives, and - better still - there's a vast selection of scooter designs to choose between.
While e-scooters are taking over the USA, it's essential to know that there are strict laws regarding using them. Each state's law is different, so it's vital to know the law if you're moving or want to use your scooter in another state.
In this post, we'll reveal everything you need to know about electric scooter laws so that you can enjoy a safe ride all of the time.
Why Are Laws For Electric Scooters Important?
In 2017, scooter manufacturer Bird introduced their ride-sharing scooter to the market, and within one year, the shared scooter pilot program had a valuation of $2 billion (Inc).
With so many benefits of electric scooters, including convenience and the ease of access, it's no surprise that Bird was able to gain momentum within the electric transportation industry - but there were some drawbacks.
The surge in electric scooters meant few people were sure about the legalities, and riders would often congest the sidewalks, cause more traffic, and in some cases - accidents.
It wasn't the scooters that were the issue, but rather the ambiguity about how people could use their electric scooters. So, new legislation came into effect to ensure scooter riders, other road users, and pedestrians would all be safe.
An Overview Of The Current Laws Surrounding Electric Scooters
Today, there are laws surrounding electric scooters which aim to protect people. Different states have their rules, and some are stricter than others. This section will look at the various restrictions and how they apply to riders.
License Requirements and Minimum Age
In many states, the minimum age to ride an electric scooter is 16 years old, but some states are more liberal. For example, Virginia has an age 14 limit, and Utah sets its restriction for those 15 years and above.
Minnesota and Michigan electric scooter laws are less restrictive, and the states let anyone 12 years and overuse them.
While people need to register if they want to ride mopeds and bikes, electric scooters are currently exempt, partly because they're not as dangerous to ride.
While most states require DMV registration for mopeds and motorcycles, electric scooters are different and subject to each state. As e-scooters are easier to use than motor vehicles, fewer restrictions exist, but the shared scooter industry is hard to regulate.
However, some states require riders to have a license to use private electric scooters.
Before we reveal the laws surrounding helmets, we want to make one thing clear; everyone should wear helmets when they use e-scooters. It doesn't matter what speed you travel because a minor accident could cause severe head trauma.
No matter what you do, wearing a helmet guarantees your safety, and as electric scooters become more advanced with higher speeds, it's advisable to give yourself the best protection possible.
Most states with moped laws will use the same laws to mandate electric scooters, and all states will expect riders to make the responsible decision and wear helmets at all times.
Electric Scooter Road and Sidewalk Laws
It comes as no surprise that some states have banned electric scooters on sidewalks. Not only can they cause accidents, but it's also not a good idea to use an e-scooter where there are plenty of obstructions.
However, not all states restrict e-scooters on sidewalks. They include:
- New York
- North Dakota
Pennsylvania and Delaware don't allow electric scooters on public roads, but other states will - as long as a rider sticks to the speed limit.
Electric Scooter Laws By State
Now you understand the general electric scooter laws, it's time to explore each state's restrictions and legal requirements.
Alabama made electric scooters legal in 2019, but the state allows cities to create their laws for electric scooter riders. Both Tuscaloosa and Auburn have not made e-scooters legal on public streets, but other cities such as Birmingham have.
All riders require an M License for their scooter, which means people under 14 years old won't use them. Anyone under 16 must wear a helmet, but those above 16 aren't legally required to do so.
Electric scooters are under the same laws as electric bikes and mopeds in Alaska. The basic restrictions state that nobody should use an e-scooter above 750 Watts, and 14-15 years old's need an M2 Permit, while people over 16 require an M1 or M3 Permit.
Arizona takes a more liberal approach to electric scooters, enabling people to ride them at low speeds on sidewalks and public roads. You also won't need to register your electric scooter, but each model must weigh 75lbs and under, with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
In Arkansas, the Electric Motorized Scooter Act came into effect in 2019. The state requires scooters to weigh no less than 100 lbs, and riders mustn't travel at speeds above 15 mph.
Each locality in Arkansas has the right to mandate scooter-sharing companies and make its own laws - within reason.
In California, electric scooters have more explicit laws, making sense because they're so popular. Users should have a valid driver's license, but they aren't required to register an electric scooter.
If you want to use your e-scooter on a public road, you must travel no faster than 15 miles per hour and stay off the sidewalk. Further to this, anyone under 18 years old must wear a helmet.
Colorado lets e-scooters on sidewalks as long as people travel 6mph. You can also ride on public roads if your scooter doesn't exceed 30mph. As you can see, the laws in Colorado are slightly more liberal than in other states.
In Connecticut, people aren't allowed to operate electric scooters on a sidewalk, but they can ride on public roads at speeds of less than 20mph. Furthermore, everyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.
Delaware is one of the strictest states, and it doesn't let people ride electric scooters on public roads. Despite the state law, some cities take a liberal approach to the law - but you should always check with your local authority.
While the state restricts using e-scooters, it also has a law stating that everyone over the age of 16 must wear a helmet.
In Washington D.C., scooters aren't treated as vehicles, so they are classed as personal mobility devices. While people won't need to register their scooter or have a license, the state does restrict riding privileges to people 16 and over.
You also won't be able to use your e-scooter on sidewalks in the business district, but low-speed electric scooters are allowed on most sidewalks - as long as they don't exceed 10mph.
Florida legalized electric scooters in 2019 but restricted them to riders 16 years old. Scooter riders should use designated bike lanes and ride at a maximum speed of 30mph.
Local authorities aren't allowed to restrict personally owned scooters, but they can make their own rules for shared e-scooters.
In Georgia, electric scooters are legal on bike paths and lanes, so users can only use them on public roads if there's no lane available. Riders must also keep to a maximum speed of 20mph, and the weight limit is 100lbs.
Hawaii is one of the states with no actual e-scooter regulations, so it's common to see people riding them everywhere. One reason for this is that the ride-sharing program never really took off in Hawaii, so the authorities didn't need to mandate e-scooters.
Idaho is another state with no clear regulations - except for the city of Boise. People can use their scooters on sidewalks and public roads, but while Boise has some rules, it's unclear on the speed limit and scooter weight.
Illinois was due to make some changes to its e-scooter laws, but the Covid-19 pandemic slowed the state's implementation of them. In simple terms, e-scooters and bikes are under the same limitations, which states that people under 17 years old must have a license.
Indiana uses its bike laws to regulate e-scooters, including riders being able to use their scooters on public paths and roads. In addition to these laws, each electric scooter model must weigh no more than 100lbs and travel at a maximum speed of 20mph.
Iowa also removes any ambiguity by treating e-scooters as bikes, with similar laws to Indiana. You can ride an electric scooter on sidewalks, bike paths, and public roads as long as it weighs under 100lbs and has a maximum speed limit of 20mph.
In Kansas, people can use e-scooters on public roads but not on sidewalks and highways. All riders must have a valid driver's license, and helmets are recommended - but not a legal requirement.
Kentucky allows people 16 years and over to use electric scooters, and you don't need to register one or have a license. However, the state does require all e-scooters to have a red rear light and headlight for night riding.
In Louisiana, scooters were legalized in 2019. People can use them on sidewalks and any street/road with a speed limit. The scooter must have a maximum speed of 25mph, and riders must stay in line with the speed limit at all times.
Anyone can use electric scooters, but anyone under 17 is legally required to wear a helmet.
Maine's laws focus more on safety, and while people can use electric scooters, they must make sure they have front and rear lights. Your wheel diameter should be a maximum of 10 inches, and all riders need a license.
In Maryland, scooters have a maximum speed limit of 20mph. Lower speed scooters are classed as bicycles and fall under the same restrictions.
In Massachusetts, electric scooter riders are classed as other vehicle owners and must protect themselves and others on the road. Anyone using an e-scooter must follow road safety laws and always wear a helmet.
Any driver must have a valid license, and the maximum speed limit is 20 miles per hour.
Michigan electric scooter laws are the same as e-skateboard regulations, which state that riders must only ride on streets with a maximum speed limit of 25mph. You cannot use your scooter on roads that exceed a speed limit of 30 miles per hour.
You'll also need to have front and rear lights that can be seen for up to 600 feet, and never try to pass someone in traffic.
Minnesota only legalizes electric foot scooters, with a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. The wheel diameter must be no more than 12 inches, and all riders under 18 have to wear a helmet.
Surprisingly, anyone over the age of 12 can use an e-scooter, but they need to have at least one year of experience.
Missouri has no clear laws on electric scooters and instead uses other laws to mandate them. For example, any scooter with a max speed of less than 30mph falls under the bike category - but those above will fall under motorcycle laws.
In Montana, electric scooters are legal on public roads, but riders must make other road users aware if they would like to pass them. Further to this, you can't use a scooter on the sidewalk.
Nebraska doesn't have many clear laws for using electric scooters and advises riders to follow other road rules. The only explicit restriction is that e-scooters aren't allowed on sidewalks.
Electric scooters are legal in Nebraska, but only for scooters that weigh 100lbs or less. Riders must also be at least 16 years old, and the maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour applies to everyone.
New Hampshire has no clear electric scooter regulations as a state, but individual cities can restrict them at their discretion. Due to this, it's advisable to check your local authority's guidelines before using your e-scooter.
Electric scooters are legal in New Jersey, and the rules are relatively liberal. You don't need a license or registration, and high-speed scooters are allowed - as long as you follow the restrictions that apply to bikes.
In Albuquerque, electric scooter sharing is popular, but despite this, New Mexico has no clear state laws. Instead, cities can make their own restrictions - but personal e-scooters aren't as popular in New Mexico as in other states.
New York is one of the biggest e-scooter states, and a lot of this is attributable to the popularity of electric scooters in NYC. The state now regulates private scooters, requiring riders to be at least 16 years old, and anyone aged 18 and under must wear helmets.
The maximum speed limit is 20 miles per hour, and riders must avoid roads with a speed limit of over 30 mph. You also cannot ride on sidewalks.
North Carolina has stricter laws that regard electric scooters as any other vehicle. All e-scooters must have DMV registration, and riders can't go on streets with a speed limit exceeding 25 miles per hour.
North Dakota regards electric scooters as mopeds and therefore mandates them under the same rules. If you want to use an electric scooter, you must ensure it has lights and suitable brakes.
Anyone under 18 must wear helmets, and biking paths along with sidewalks are entirely off-limits.
Ohio only legalized e-scooters in 2021, and the state doesn't require riders to have a license or register their scooters. However, you can't use a scooter that exceeds 100lbs and 20 miles per hour. Anyone under the age of 16 isn't eligible to use the scooter.
Oklahoma as a state has no laws for electric scooter riding, but each city can make its laws. In Oklahoma City, e-scooters can go on roads with a speed limit exceeding 35 miles per hour, which is highly liberal compared to other states.
One thing cities in Oklahoma do take seriously is the minimum age for riders. You have to be at least 18 to use them.
Oregon has no specific electric scooter legislation, and the city of Portland regards them as mopeds. Riders can't use their scooters on sidewalks and must stay under the speed limit of 15 miles per hour.
Further to this, e-scooter users must be at least 16 years old. The rules might be different in other cities, so it's always best to check with your authority.
In terms of Pennsylvania e-scooter laws, there is a lot of ambiguity and confusion surrounding whether people can use them. The Pennsylvania Transportation Committee doesn't regard e-scooters as compliant but does consider segways as electric transportation.
Basically, there are no clear guidelines for e-scooters, so it's best to check with your local authority.
Rhode Island has different regulations depending on the city you reside in. Providence requires driver's licenses, and riders can use the scooter on the road and sidewalks.
Both Charleston and Columbia have issued bans on e-scooter sharing schemes, but other cities in South Carolina allow them. The rules are unclear on privately owned scooters, but each city can make its own legislation.
South Dakota uses moped laws to regulate e-scooters, and the most common restrictions involve riders needing a license and insurance. People are also expected to wear protective gear if they're under 18.
In Tennessee, e-scooters are regarded as bikes, and most cities don't allow people to ride on the sidewalk. In addition, scooters must weigh no more than 100lbs and should have good brakes and taillights.
Texas regulates the use of e-scooters on roads with speed limits exceeding 35 miles per hour, but electric transportation is prevalent throughout the state - especially in colleges.
Riders don't need insurance, and scooters are also exempt from registration.
In Utah, people can use e-scooters anywhere bikes are allowed, but they can't exceed 15 miles per hour. Anyone under 15 years old should have adult supervision.
Each city in Vermont can make its laws, but e-scooters are considered vehicles in the state, so only road use is permissible. Some cities, such as Burlington, have a 15 miles per hour speed limit.
Virginia also allows cities to further mandate e-scooters, but the state laws require scooters to be no heavier than 100lbs with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. People must be at least 14 years old, and nobody can use the electric scooters on the highway.
Washington allows scooters with a speed of 15 miles per hour on roads and bike paths. Each city can make its laws regarding sidewalk riding and the minimum age, but you must use reflectors at night.
In West Virginia, there are no set laws for e-scooters at this time, but the state does mandate e-bikes, which suggests that they'll use the same restrictions for e-scooters in the near future.
Wisconsin states that no scooter should exceed 20 miles per hour, but each local authority has the right to set its laws. Riders should also never use the sidewalk unless they have to.
In Wyoming, e-scooters don't require a license or registration, and local authorities treat them as e-bikes and electric skateboards. The speed limits depend on each city's local requirements.
As you can see, there are no set electric scooter laws for the USA, and your obligations depend entirely on your state - and sometimes city of residence. E-scooters are a great way to travel, and many people enjoy the convenience and environmentally friendly features.
Always make sure you follow your state's regulations, and you'll be able to make the most of your riding experience.