Just over one year ago, on June 18th, 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill (HB 453) that legalized electric scooters in Florida. The law went into effect immediately, and while this law and its effects are still “new”, the electric scooters from companies such as Lime, Bird, Spin, and Jump have enjoyed immense popularity statewide. Here’s a deeper look at how the introduction of these vehicles has affected scooterists and pedestrians.
Electric scooters, also known as e-scooters, have become a fun, cheap, and convenient way to get around in Florida cities (and truly, they are a nationwide phenomenon). You can buy a personal one from a variety of retailers, but it is more common for users to share them. In the same way that ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft allow multiple riders to ride in the same vehicles at different times, e-scooter riders in big cities can use an app to find an empty scooter, scan a code to unlock the scooter, pay a small fee per mile for their ride, and then mark the location where they deposited the scooter.
(It may surprise you to know that these e-scooters were deemed essential transportation during the coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home order in Tampa by Mayor Jane Castor, but they were sanitized three times each day and users were warned about the potential contamination risk.)
The law that allowed companies to launch in Florida’s cities states that e-scooter riders have the same rights and responsibilities that bicyclists have, including the opportunity to use bike lanes. However, the rest of the regulation is left up to local city officials to decide.
In Tampa, scooterists are required to be at least 16 years of age and have a valid driver’s license or permit (though the governor’s bill does not require licensure). Helmets are encouraged but not required. Operators may ride between the boundaries of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on the North side of Tampa, Davis and Harbor Islands on the South side of Tampa, Armenia Avenue on the West side of Tampa, and 40th Street on the East side of Tampa, but they are not permitted to ride on the Tampa Riverwalk, on Bayshore Boulevard, or on 7th Avenue. Obviously, scooterists must yield to pedestrians and not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while riding. Only one person can operate a single scooter at one time. Because these vehicles are new and in their pilot phase, there is not harsh enforcement of these rules yet, and government officials are still working out how to reconcile the state law with city ordinances.
While electric scooters may be the trendy new transportation, there are a plethora of safety concerns surrounding their use, which is why not every state and major city in the U.S. has allowed them to take over. These scooters are fast; they can travel up to 20 miles per hour with ease, and they accelerate very quickly. Users are not required to wear helmets. These scooters are often ridden in pedestrian-heavy areas. They belong to no one, so they can be dropped anywhere for people to trip over. These scooters don’t have any padding, like bicycles, so riders are completely exposed. Scooter riders are lower than bicycles and can be harder for large vehicles to see. Rain can dampen scooterists’ grips on the handles.
The biggest safety issues are due to inexperience, though. Because electric scooters are a new method of transportation, both drivers and e-scooter riders do not always anticipate scenarios that can lead to collisions. There are no turn signals on electric scooters, and riders have the freedom to choose where to ride (on the sidewalk, on the road, which can be confusing for drivers).
Scooter-related injuries are unsurprisingly on the rise. Natasha Trentacosta, an orthopedic surgeon in L.A., told the media that they were seeing e-scooter injuries daily and patients who required urgent surgery once or twice a week. San Diego saw an increase in emergency room visits by scooter riders. Chattanooga, Tennessee banned them initially based on accidents reported in Memphis and Nashville.
A study performed by the University of California, San Francisco showed that nearly 40,000 broken bones, head injuries, cuts, and bruises that were linked to e-scooter accidents were treated in ERs from 2014-2018. Another study suggests that there have been 8 deaths connected to e-scooters since 2017 and more than 1,500 injuries in 2019 alone. These numbers could actually be higher because not all facilities have the capability to track scooter injuries yet. There have already been several lawsuits related to e-scooter injuries.
If you have been injured in an accident involving an electric scooter – either as a pedestrian, rider, driver, or cyclist – you may be entitled to seek financial compensation. When someone else’s negligence causes you pain and suffering as well as requiring ER visits, surgeries, medical devices, medications, hospital stays, etc., you shouldn’t have to carry the cost of your injuries by yourself. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer who knows how to successfully recover damages for e-scooter injury cases and can guide you through the entire litigation process! The Florida Law Group is ranked in the top 1% of law firms in the state of Florida. We have gained national recognition for our ability to get verdicts for our clients. Our firm was even named to the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum because of our track record of achieving large settlements!
We can help advocate for your best interests, stand up to intimidating insurance companies, navigate the confusing claims process, and connect you with the support you need while your lawsuit is pending. Call us today for a free case evaluation! We proudly offer all of our legal services on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you do not pay us anything unless we win your case.