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Understand the Important Legality of Electric Scooters in the US in 5 Minutes

Understand the Important Legality of Electric Scooters in the US in 5 Minutes

In recent years, electric scooters have become more popular as a practical and environmentally beneficial method of transportation. They are valuable substitutes for conventional gasoline-powered cars and motorbikes, particularly for quick commutes and city trips. But many people are still unsure whether electric scooters are allowed in the US.

Are eco-friendly electric scooters street-legal? Can you use them on the highways? This article will discuss the laws, regulations, and safety precaution mandates currently applicable to electric scooters in the United States.

Why is it important to understand the legality of electric scooters in the US?

    - Licensing requirements

    - Age limits/minimums

    - Speed limits in the governed state

    - Sidewalk regulations

    - Helmet regulations

    - Traffic laws

    - Insurance requirements

Concluding remarks

Why is it important to understand the legality of electric scooters in the US?

Because of the increase in users as of 2023, lawmakers dealt with various complexities connected to electric scooters. There are no doubts about electric scooters’ eco-friendliness, efficiency, and sustainability. But the primary contention for legislators in the US is based on safety. Consequently, as we will detail below, electric scooters are now subject to various laws in some states. It can be challenging to find reliable information online. Occasionally, there is ambiguity on what is legal in a particular state, for example, whether you need a license, whether it’s a must to wear helmets, etc.

Moreover, laws may be updated, which is an ongoing process. As time passes, the rules that were in effect in the past may change. Cities in every state may have local ordinances that forbid, restrict, or outright outlaw the usage of electric scooters. Scooters that are owned privately versus rented ones may also differ.

That is why we will uncover the latest and most accurate information so you can make the most conscious choice to adopt the most environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vehicles – a portable electric scooter.

Tabular summary of legalities of electric scooters in US states(* Any state not listed in a specific column assumes discretionary from riders and is allowed.)
Tabular summary of legalities of electric scooters in US states(* Any state not listed in a specific column assumes discretionary from riders and is allowed.​​)

As SmooSat emphasizes safety above all, we limit the maximum speed to 10 mph (adhering to the US ordinances for all states) in all our kids’ electric scooters, namely the SmooSat E9, the best-selling SmooSat E9 Pro and the SmooSat E9 Apex.

Infographic: Electric Scooter Laws by State (Source: Parker Waichman LLC)
Infographic: Electric Scooter Laws by State (Source: Parker Waichman LLC)​​

Licensing requirements

The most common answer, if a state requires licensing for electric scooters, is – no, they do not. However, there are some exceptions in the shared electric scooter arena. While most states demand Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration for motorcycles and mopeds, each state has regulations for electric scooters. Fewer limitations apply to e-scooters than motor vehicles since they are simpler to operate. However, a few states demand that private electric scooter users possess a license as of 2023. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, and New Hampshire. However, gradually they are being lifted.

Age limits/minimums

Although some jurisdictions are more lenient than others, the legal age to operate an electric scooter on the streets is typically 16 years old. The mandate does not include kids’ electric scooters in private properties like parks. For adult street commutes, Virginia, for instance, has a 14-year-old minimum age requirement, while Utah restricts access to those 15 and older. The laws governing electric scooters are less rigorous in Minnesota and Michigan, and these states permit anybody over 12 to use them in the streets. Electric scooters in most states are now free from registration requirements, partly because they’re less risky than mopeds and bicycles.

Speed limits in the governed state

Most states’ maximum speed limit is 20 mph (32 kph). It is unexpected, considering that most shared scooters can only travel around 10-15 mph (16-24 km), making them all legal in those states. A few exceptions do exist. In New Jersey, the top speed is 19 mph (30 kph), compared to Washington DC’s 10 mph (16 kph). It is 25 mph (40 km) in Michigan and Oregon. You can find a comprehensive list in this article from Fluid Free Ride.

Sidewalk regulations

The fact that some states had previously outlawed using electric scooters on sidewalks is unsurprising. Rides should not use electric scooters in areas with many obstacles because they increase the risk of accidents and can be dangerous for others. Meanwhile, not all states prohibit using e-scooters on sidewalks, including New York, Montana, North Dakota, Connecticut, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Electric scooters are not permitted on public highways in Pennsylvania or Delaware, although they are allowed in other states if the rider follows the speed limit.

Helmet regulations 

We at SmooSat want to be clear that everyone should wear helmets when using e-scooters before discussing the regulations governing helmets. No matter how fast you drive, even a slight accident could result in severe brain injuries. Wearing a helmet ensures your safety no matter what you do, and as electric scooters improve and reach higher speeds, it’s advisable to provide the finest defense for yourself. You must wear a helmet in most jurisdictions with moped legislation, and all states expect riders to act responsibly and always wear helmets.

Traffic laws

The same traffic laws that apply to bicycles also apply to electric scooters. These laws include riding in the same direction as traffic, observing traffic signs, and making way for pedestrians. Electric scooters may, however, be subject to state-specific rules that may include speed caps, restrictions on where you can use them (detailed in the table above), and whether they are allowed on sidewalks.

Insurance requirements

Electric scooters are generally exempt from insurance requirements. In contrast, various states may have different insurance requirements for electric scooters, mainly for commercial reasons, such as through a shared scooter program. For those instances, it is crucial to check the local legislation in your area.

Concluding remarks

Finally, everyone must note that legislation is a developing and dynamic process. An anecdotal analogy is when motor vehicles like cars gained traction in the early 1900s. Many people were wary of the safety of pedestrians when cars were a new thing, and many advocated enacting laws to keep vehicles out of the streets. But when people realized their efficiency and life-changing impact of them swiftly, cars took over roads, and pedestrians and bikes got their specific lanes. A similar phenomenon is taking place today concerning electric scooters.

Similarly, this is the era of sustainability and eco-friendly transportation, and electric scooters are leading the charge in this revolution. So, following the history and records of the last decade, legislators are becoming more and more lenient when it comes to electric scooter street rides. Likely, that day is not far off when legislators will lift most restrictions across all states thanks to the move towards electric scooters’ sustainable and environmentally friendly aspects. If you are interested in adopting such a green solution to everyday commutes, please read our comprehensive blog – Guide to The Best Electric Scooters for Adults and Kids, as there is undoubtedly one that best fits your needs. Moreover, if you want to learn about your family’s health benefits of electric scooters, our blog - Benefits of Electric Scooters for Kids: Revitalizing Your Child’s Active Lifestyle, is a must-read.

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