Electric scooters began rolling into Detroit and other cities across Michigan in late 2017. Accidents involving these scooters, whether it was scooter riders being hit by cars or hitting pedestrians, soon followed. Michigan lawmakers enacted the Michigan electric scooter laws, in September 2018, a series of laws that address such issues as scooter insurance, rules of the road for scooters, helmet requirements, age limits, speed limits, sidewalk use and rules regarding passengers.
Below I will analyze the specific Michigan electric scooter laws and the growing dangers of serious injury posed both to scooter operators and the dangers posed by scooters as they spread and grow in popularity. I was one of the first injury lawyers in Michigan to represent a person seriously injured while riding a scooter and the law and the rules involving scooters have been evolving fast.
IMPORTANT UPDATE – NO-FAULT BENEFITS AND SCOOTERS: Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt was interviewed by the Detroit Free Press for its story, “Detroit hospital deals with injury aftermath of electric scooters’ descent on city.” On the subject of No-Fault insurance coverage for medical and/or wage loss benefits for scooter riders who are injured in a crash, Brandon explained that “[i]n order to access Michigan’s No-Fault benefits, you have to, unfortunately, have a motor vehicle involved, which probably means more serious injury.” He also noted that, in light of the fact that the Michigan Electric Scooter Laws allow scooter operators to ride in the road as well as on sidewalks, “[a]s of right now, you can pretty much ride a scooter anywhere.” Finally, attorney Brandon Hewitt shared his scooter safety tips which included cautioning scooter users to drive slowly and wear helmets.
What are the Michigan electric scooter laws?
One of the first things I discovered when I started researching the law was that there are no Michigan electric scooter laws. At least, there are no scooter laws under that name.
In practice, the Michigan electric scooter laws are actually covered by the electric skateboard laws.
Specifically, the laws that were passed in 2018 to control and regulate the use of “electric skateboards.” I don’t know how many people renting scooters in Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor or other places are intending to rent “electric skateboards,” but this is the term of art that lawmakers used to encompass and apply to electric scooters.
Consider the Michigan Vehicle Code’s definition of “electric skateboard,” especially the part that says an “electric skateboard may have handlebars”:
An electric skateboard “means a wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is no more than 60 inches long and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only 1 person at a time, has an electrical propulsion system with power of no more than 2,500 watts, and has a maximum speed on a paved level surface of not more than 25 miles per hour. An electric skateboard may have handlebars and, in addition to having an electrical propulsion system with power of no more than 2,500 watts, may be designed to also be powered by human propulsion.” (MCL 257.13f)
It certainly sounds imprecise, but I am not alone in reaching the legal conclusion that “electric scooters” and “electric skateboards” can be used interchangeably for purposes of discussing the applicable scooter laws in Michigan.
In a September 16, 2019, article, “E-scooters are fast, unregulated and all over Detroit. What could go wrong?,” Bridge said the following about electric scooters:
- They are “essentially electric skateboards with handlebars that can cruise up to 15 mph at the touch of a button.”
- They are “[o]fficially regulated under the newly amended Michigan Vehicle Code as ‘electric skateboards with handlebars.’”
Similarly, in an October 15, 2018, “Report of Motorized Electric Scooters,” the Director of the Detroit City Council’s Legislative Policy Division explained:
“In an attempt to regulate the use of electric scooters in Michigan, the State has passed legislation addressing the matter. The Michigan Motor Vehicle Code defines the electric scooter under MCL 257.13f [which is the statutory definition of an “electric skateboard”].”
The Detroit City Council’s interpretation squares with that of the Detroit Greenways Coalition:
“The state’s legal definition of electric skateboards (MCL 257.13f) includes motorized scooters AKA e-scooters (‘An electric skateboard may have handlebars’).”
The Michigan electric scooter laws contradict Mayor Duggan’s claims that scooter injuries are “B.S.”
It’s a good thing that the Michigan electric scooter laws have been put in place because even though they look fun and exciting electric scooters (or skateboards) are proving to be very dangerous and a lot of people are getting seriously hurt.
One has to wonder if there is a “scooter lobby,” and if so, just how much money they are contributing to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Frankly, there is no other possible explanation that I can think of to explain Mayor Duggan’s completely absurd comment back in October of 2018 that the increasing number of news reports about injuries from scooter accidents were “such B.S.”
You are wrong, Mr. Mayor. People are getting seriously injured on electric scooters, just as people who are on bikes or walking as pedestrians get seriously hurt, or even killed, when they are hit by cars and careless drivers.
Many are now being represented by the lawyers at this law firm!
In a September 16, 2019, story, “Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan claimed scooter injuries are ‘BS.’ They’re not,” Bridge reported as follows:
- The “Detroit Receiving Hospital – which is part of the DMC – averages 10-20 patients per month in its emergency room because of scooter accidents . . .”
- The Medical Director of Detroit Receiving’s ER stated: “It’s not a matter if there’s going to be a death, it’s just a matter of time. Given the types of injuries and the pattern of injuries, it’s very clear to me it’s going to happen.”
- Studies of scooter-related accidents in Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles, California, show that head injuries occurred in 40% to 50% of crashes and that helmet use by scooter operators was 1% to 4%.
- Using data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance system, one study concluded that the “incidence of motorized scooter related craniofacial trauma is rising, resulting in thousands of ED visits annually. Many patients are experiencing morbid traumatic injuries and may not be wearing appropriate protective equipment.”
Significantly, investigations by Consumer Reports show the reality of the danger posed by electric scooters:
- At least 1,500 riders across the country have been injured in scooter-related accidents since electric scooters became available in late 2017.
- There have been 8 deaths resulting from scooter-related accidents. (“8 Deaths Now Tied To E-Scooters,” Consumer Reports, June 3, 2019)
Do I need insurance for electric scooters?
No. Under Michigan electric scooter laws, only vehicles that qualify as a “motor vehicle” as that term is defined in Michigan’s No-Fault auto insurance law must be covered by car insurance. Electric scooters (or electric skateboards) do not meet the definition of a “motor vehicle” because neither is “a vehicle . . . that is operated or designed for operation on a public highway by power other than muscular power and has more than 2 wheels.” (MCL 500.3101(3)(i))
Do the laws affect a person’s No-Fault benefits?
No. According to Michigan electric scooter laws, the operator of an electric scooter or electric skateboard who is injured in a crash with a car or truck will be able to collect No-Fault auto insurance benefits. He or she will be treated as a non-occupant or a pedestrian under the No-Fault priority rules, which are the rules that determine from whom No-Fault benefits to cover medical expenses and wage loss benefits will be collected.
Do the laws require scooter drivers to follow the rules of the road?
Yes. The Michigan electric scooter laws state that anyone who rides an electric scooter (or electric skateboard) on a Michigan road “has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle . . .” (MCL 257.657)
Do the laws mention anything about allowing passengers to ride?
Yes. The Michigan electric scooter laws state that a scooter or electric skateboard “shall not be used to carry more than 1 person at a time.” (MCL 257.658(3))
Is helmet use required under the laws?
Yes, but not for everyone. According to Michigan electric scooter laws, only a scooter or electric skateboard operator who is under 19 years of age must “wear a crash helmet on his or her head.” (MCL 257.658(4))
Is there an age limit for riding on electric scooters?
Yes. Under Michigan electric scooter laws, kids under 12 cannot ride an electric scooter or electric skateboard “on a public highway or street.” (MCL 257.658(9))
What are the rules of the road for electric scooters?
According to Michigan electric scooter laws a person driving an electric scooter or an electric skateboard on a public roadway must do the following:
- Drive as far to the right side of the roadway as possible.
- Not ride more than 2 abreast.
- Use a designated path when required by a local ordinance to do so.
- Not pass between lanes of traffic. (MCL 257.660(1), (2), (3) and (4))
Can you drive electric scooters on sidewalks?
Yes. According to Michigan electric scooter laws, if you’re operating an electric scooter or electric skateboard on a sidewalk, then you must “yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian” and you must “give an audible signal before overtaking and passing the pedestrian.” (MCL 257.660(5)
What is the speed limit under Michigan electric scooter laws?
An electric scooter or electric skateboard cannot be driven at more than 25 mph. (MCL 257.660(10))
Additionally, a scooter or skateboard without handlebars cannot be driven on a road with a speed limit of 25 mph, except to cross. For scooters or skateboards with handlebars, they cannot be operated on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or more, except to cross.
What do the scooter laws say about parking?
Under the Michigan electric scooter laws it states that there are different rules depending on whether you’re parking on a sidewalk or on the street:
- Sidewalk: You can park your electric scooter or electric skateboard “equipped with handlebars” on a sidewalk so long as it doesn’t impede “the lawful movement of pedestrians or other traffic.” (MCL 257.660d(1) and (2))
- On the street: You can park your electric scooter or electric skateboard “equipped with handlebars” on the street wherever cars and trucks can park. You can also park at an angle to the curb or edge of the highway. Additionally, you can park abreast of another scooter or skateboard that is “equipped with handlebars.” However, you cannot park your electric scooter or electric skateboard “equipped with handlebars on a highway or street in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.” (MCL 257.660d(3) and (4))
Are lights required on electric scooters?
Yes. According to the Michigan electric scooter laws, if you’re going to drive your electric scooter or electric skateboard on the road “between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise,” then you must have a white-light, front lamp that is “visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front” and a rear, red reflector or a rear, red-light lamp “visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.” (MCL 257.662(1))