Security and Safety

Navigating Texas’ Electric Scooter Craze

By Peter Simek 1.14.19

If you live in one of Texas’ big cities — or have visited one lately — you’ll undoubtedly have noticed a new addition to the streetscape: electric scooters!

The easily rentable scooters (all you need to do is download an app and snap a photo of your driver’s license to get started) offer an irresistibly fun way to get around town, and they have taken over Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, as well as smaller cities like Abilene.

Proponents see the scooters as the next generation of urban transportation. They’re also an enjoyable way to zip at upwards of 20 miles per hour on the way to a meeting or a meetup with friends. But there’s a flipside to all the fun Texans are having with their new transit toys.

Are Electric Scooters Safe?

Scooters can be dangerous. There has already been a scooter-related death in Dallas, and dozens of other riders have made trips to the emergency room after scooter crashes. More common are the scrapes, bumps, collisions, and crashes that go unreported.

And while there is no evidence that riding a scooter is any more dangerous than riding in a car or navigating a bicycle on a city street, there is some question as to who is liable when a scooter ride goes bad.

Who Is Responsible for Damages?

Because scooters are so new, there haven’t been many opportunities to set precedent around what happens when there is an accident.

Austin attorney Jack Zinda, a partner at Zinda Law, told the Austin American-Statesman that scooter companies will likely claim they are like auto rental companies, relieving themselves of any responsibility if one of their products is involved in an accident. (Bird and LimeBike, the two electric scooter companies prevalent in Texas, did not respond to requests to comment for this article).

In most cities, signing up for scooter services from companies like Bird or LimeBike requires riders to sign a waiver that assumes their liability for accidents. In cities like Dallas, Bird and Lime are required to have $500,000 per accident in liability insurance, but they can only be held accountable if it can be shown that the accident was the result of scooter malfunction. Otherwise, the responsibility for insurance falls on the rider.

Bird’s terms and conditions specifically remind riders that automotive insurance policies may not provide coverage for scooter accidents, and the company urges them to check with their agents to see what coverage they have and what may be necessary. 

What Does It Mean for Riders?

A California attorney who has seen the impact of the scooters’ rollout in areas around Los Angeles say that this murky area of the law has already led to piles of litigation around who is responsible when a scooter is involved in a crash. Expect more of those cases to hit Texas soon. Meanwhile, some cities, like Waco, have sidestepped the issue altogether by temporarily disallowing the scooters on city streets, pending further discussion.

Ultimately, if you plan to ride scooters regularly — or even if you are visiting a Texas city and plan to take one for a joyride — it’s a good idea to check with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure you have the sufficient liability coverage to ride and make sure you understand the terms and conditions before you click “agree.”

And, as always, drive safe!

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