Escooter Safety - The Basics

The Basics

Based on reporting from before you buy an e-scooter, know that the rules governing their use vary from place to place. At the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t consider stand-up scooters without seats as motor vehicles, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn’t issued rules for them, so there aren’t yet any federal safety requirements. But that hasn’t stopped states and municipalities from regulating them. 

Most recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrangled with state legislators over regulating e-scooters in New York City. Cuomo said in a statement in January that “we need clear laws and regulations that put the safety of riders and pedestrians first.”

The legislature passed a law that allowed e-scooters and e-bikes, but it regulated speeds, banned them from sidewalks, and required helmets for certain riders. Washington, D.C., this year increased the number of dockless rental e-scooters it will allow in the nation’s capital. San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and other cities also have been active in regulating the e-scooters that seemed to appear on their streets overnight without forewarning.

If the legality of e-scooters is still a gray area where you live, there’s a chance you could get a ticket from riding one in the wrong place. So make sure you research the rules.

If you’re considering buying an e-scooter, it’s a good idea to think about where you will be riding. Keep in mind that most cities do not allow operation of electric bicycles or scooters on sidewalks, although in many places, streets filled with fast-moving traffic are not safe for e-scooter riders to use. Ideally, you will be using dedicated bicycle lanes.

Finally, look at the different e-scooter models and see which one has the setup that works best for you. Among the models we tested, there were three with electric braking on the front wheel—two of those had disc brakes on the rear wheel, and one had a rear foot brake—and the fourth had only a rear drum brake. They all behaved differently and would undoubtedly suit different tastes and abilities. Methods of delivering power varied, too, as did range, speed, and portability.

Wear a Helmet

There’s also the safety component to consider. “E-scooters’ smaller wheels mean they don’t react as well to bumpy surfaces, when compared to bicycles,” Deitrick says. “A high center of gravity and stubby handlebars also give scooters—electrified or not—less stability than a bicycle, especially in an urban environment.”

Helmets should definitely be worn while riding any scooter—especially one powered by an electric motor. CR recommends that if you’re buying, or even renting, an e-scooter, you should wear a helmet that fits properly

Promising Option

Consumer Reports considers electric scooters to be one of several promising new transportation options that give people a convenient and affordable way to get around and that may be more efficient than a car for traveling in densely populated areas. At the same time, safety must always come first and helps keep people from getting injured when using e-scooters and similar products.