Electric Scooter Laws in Washington State
Electric scooters are an attractive option for many Vancouver and Battle Ground residents. They are an affordable, fun way to travel. They are environmentally friendly. There are constant new innovations in the latest models. While scooters are attractive because they are cheap and have a low-carbon output, they have generated complaints worldwide, especially in metropolitan areas, from pedestrians.
Most states and many cities either have, or are considering, regulations to control the types of scooters that can be used, who can use them, and where they can be used. Some regulations apply to all scooters. Other regulations apply to just electric scooters. There are evolving laws on when scooters can be used on sidewalks, streets, parks, and other locations. The laws on helmet requirements for scooter use are also evolving.
Unagiscooters.com has prepared a thorough 2021 guide to the latest electric scooter laws, including a guide to Washington state’s laws. (Unagi sells electric scooters.) Unagi asserts that electric scooter usage, called micromobility, is expanding. The company states that even where there are electric scooter laws, many of those laws are not being enforced. Unagi recommends that all electric scooter users consider the rights of pedestrians, other riders (such as bicycle riders), and cars who are unlikely to expect to see an electric scooter on the road.
What are Washington State’s scooter laws?
The laws and regulations that are being enacted are taking some cues from the laws and regulations that apply to the shared ride experience of Uber and Lyft for passenger vehicles and from laws and regulations on electric bikes.
Washington is one of 11 states where riding an electric scooter on a sidewalk is not legal. Where permissible, scooters can be driven up to 10 to 20mph.
Currently, Washington does not require the scooters be registered with the Washington Department of Transportation. Washington does not have a standard minimum age requirement. Washington state also does not require that users wear a helmet.
In May 2019, Washington passed a scooter law that also applies to motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, mopeds, electric-assisted bicycles (e-bikes), and other mobility devices. The law’s provisions that apply to electric scooters called motorized foot scooters are:
- No driver’s license is required.
- “Electric scooters cannot be driven any time from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise without reflectors of a type approved by the state patrol.” Basically, you cannot ride an electric scooter when it is dark.
- A child under 16 can only operate an electric scooter/motorized foot scooter if a local jurisdiction approves the usage.
- The speed limit for electric scooters is up to 15 mph on any roadway or bicycle lane.
- Only if a local jurisdiction approves driving an electric scooter, can the electric scooter be driven on a sidewalk or on a pedestrian or bicycle trail.
- The local jurisdiction must specify the speed limit for sidewalk usage.
Another Washington state law, RCW 46.61.710, also regulates the use of motorized foot scooters (electric scooters). The law sets the rules for using (and not using) electric scooters on highways – especially if federal funds were used to build the highway. Generally, you cannot drive an electric scooter on any highway. Electric scooters cannot be used on trails that are specifically designated as “nonmotorized.”
Electric scooter regulations for Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA
Currently, Vancouver has not enacted any specific rules or regulations for motorized foot scooters.
Battle Ground does have rules for the operation of motorized foot scooters/electric vehicles:
- You must be 16 or older to operate an electric scooter on a street or public area, unless otherwise prohibited.
- You must wear an approved helmet (all ages) that has either a chin or neck strap. The strap must be fastened securely while the electric scooter is in motion.
- No passengers are allowed.
- If used during the hours when it is dark, the scooter must have a lamp on the front which meets specific illumination requirements.
- The electric scooter must have proper reflectors if it is used when it is dark.
- The electric scooter must have a brake to “enable the operator to make a braked wheel(s) skid on dry, level, clean pavement” if used on a public area.
- The electric scooter must have a muffler to prevent excess noise.
- The motorized foot scooter must be equipped with the ability to disengage the drive motor.
- Users cannot operate their electric scooter on “any public sidewalk, walkway or pathway, any city-owned or controlled parking lot, in any city park, or on any public street where the speed limit is greater than twenty-five miles per hour.”
Users, by law, cannot operate their electric scooter in a negligent manner.
Why are electric scooters dangerous?
The greatest risks to scooter users are collisions and falls. If a user is negligent and dashes out into the road, he or she can be hit by a car or cause a collision between other vehicles. It is also possible that someone using a scooter on a sidewalk will crash into a pedestrian, a building, or other stationary objects. Over the past year, as outdoor dining took up more and more space on sidewalks, it was difficult enough to move around. Adding a scooter to that mix could be injurious or fatal.
Falls from scooters can also increase the risk of serious injury or even death. A person moving at 20mph on a scooter lacks any type of protection in the event of a fall, and could easily break a bone, suffer head or brain trauma, sustain “road rash,” or cause him or herself permanent harm to the neck, back, or shoulders. If the road, trail, or sidewalk has debris on it, or if there is a pothole or uneven section of pavement, the risk of a fall may be imminent.
In addition to the increased likelihood of being knocked over and falling from a scooter accident, pedestrians complain that the scooters increase sidewalk congestion and that vandalization of the shared scooters is creating health concerns and beautification concerns.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground personal injury lawyers hold drivers of any vehicles – including electric scooters – that cause accidents with pedestrians, bicycle riders, and car drivers liable for the injuries they cause. We seek to hold the owners of the scooters liable, too. We demand compensation for all your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost income resulting from your injuries. To assert your legal rights, call our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent accident claims on a contingency fee basis.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.