Do you need a license for an electric scooter in the US? Let´s check it!

Electric scooters are gaining popularity due to their high speed, smooth-riding comfort, compact size, lightweight, and low maintenance cost. You can see the streets of all main cities flooded with people riding them. Even kids like to ride these new toys! 

However, everyone knows that every vehicle has strict rules for driving it on the roads. This article will explain to you the legal status of electric scooters in the United States.

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“Is my scooter legal?” is the most popular question in laws-related searches on Google. 

Well, as you know, the United States is a country with a very difficult law system, where basic rules can differ from state to state, and even from county to county. For example, most states are fine with e-scooters on roads, but only five states legally allow you to ride your scooter on the sidewalks. What are the other differences? Let’s see.

What are the federal rules for electric scooters?

Under the HR 727 amendment of the Consumer Product Safety Act, electric scooters are viewed as “low-speed bicycles,” or “two- or three-wheeled vehicles with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph”. If there are no specific rules in your state, this definition is in a rule.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that “scooters lacking seats that are operated in a stand-up mode” aren’t federally regulated as motor vehicles, which means individual states and cities set the rules for their use on the roads.

So, do you need a license for an electric scooter in the US?

Some states don´t require any license for electric scooter riders while others do. 

In some states, you can use a basic driver’s license or permit, a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement, or just a motorcycle license.

Currently, the states that require a driving license or a learner’s permit for e-scooter riders are:

  • Alabama
  • Missouri
  • Alaska
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Illinois
  • California
  • North Carolina
  • Kansas

Many states allow counties and cities to set their own electric scooter regulations, so it´s crucial to check local rules before riding an e-scooter to avoid fines and other penalties.

We´ll see the rules of different states below.

Which states allow riding the e-scooters on the road? 

Well, e-scooters are legal for use on the road in 38 states (from Massachusetts and California to Alaska and Alabama). However, some states have specific restrictions. For example, four states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York) don’t allow riding an electric scooter on highways, expressways, and limited-access roads. 

And there’s a good reason for it: most electric scooter models are designed for a speed equal to 20 mph. As you can see, the cars (or even trucks) move way faster, so e-scooters just aren’t able to keep up with the traffic.

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Speaking of state-specific rules, five states (Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, and Virginia) require the electric scooters to stay on the right side of the road during the ride.

Here’s the full list of states where electric scooters are prohibited from use on the roads:

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Hew Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

And, what about the sidewalks?

Well, rules regulating electric scooters’ use on the sidewalks are stricter. And by “stricter” we mean “they are really very strict”. 

At the moment only five US states allow riding on the sidewalks (Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Virginia). But there’s a big loophole: 19 states don’t mention electric scooters on the sidewalks in their road safety rules at all! 

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But you should be very careful while riding it through the sidewalk. Every mistake can lead to serious injuries to both sides. And you maybe shouldn’t ride it there if your scooter is too fast and powerful.

Do I need to wear a helmet?

Rules vary from state to state. We´ll dive into rules about helmets and protective gear further, but it´s essential to warn you. Always wear a helmet while riding your e-scooter! It´s a matter of your safety!

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that head injuries are frequent, unfortunately, they occur in 45% of all electric scooter accidents. Some people think that if they know how to ride an electric scooter they can get rid of the helmet. But they´re wrong! Be prudent and you will avoid the majority of injuries.

In addition to the helmets, some states require electric scooter riders to have eye protection, depending on the rider’s age (Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia).

Also, it´s recommended to use a horn or bell in case you want to alert drivers or pedestrians that you are approaching. And it´s a good idea to wear bright clothing, day and night.

Are kids allowed to ride the electric scooters?

Well, most states rule that persons under 16 shouldn’t ride an electric scooter in the cities or on bike roads. There are some exceptions (Michigan and Minnesota, for example, have age restrictions set at the age of twelve for riding an e-scooter). 

And, of course, protective gear (including a helmet) is mandatory for riders under 18. Even if you are older, you should not forget about the protective gear. It’s for your good!

What are the rules for electric scooter rentals?

You can see a lot of parking lots for e-scooters in your city. Some of them are made by rental companies. In terms of business, most of them are non-exclusive franchises given by the city (or county) administration. Their businesses are highly regulated by the respective departments of said cities.

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Speaking of rental scooter users, there are also some restrictions. For example, the speed limit for them is usually set at 15. Many electric scooter rental companies have limited their scooters to 15 miles per hour, making it impossible for riders to exceed the speed limit on flat ground. 

It means that rental e-scooters may be significantly slower than privately-owned ones (especially high-end models with powerful engines). It is definitely good for children’s models but may disappoint some adult riders.

Do I need insurance for my electric scooter?

Good news, everyone! There is only one state that requires DMV registration for e-scooters. It’s North Carolina. Also, there are two states that require you to be insured as transport means: Illinois and Texas (for vehicles with engine power surpassing 750 Watts). Having a valid driving license is usually enough for e-scooter owners.

Can I take my e-scooter on a plane?

The regulations for luggage are similar for both domestic and international airlines. Electric scooters are treated just like other devices powered by lithium-ion batteries (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.). 

And there’s really bad news for e-scooter owners: only devices with battery energy less than 100Wh (Watt-hours) can be taken as carry-on luggage. Models with battery energy of less than 160Wh may be transported in checked baggage. While most laptops or mobile phones may be taken on board as carry-on luggage, most electric scooter models have batteries with more energy (you can check it in the manual). 

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Only kid´s low-end e-scooters can be transported in baggage. Nevertheless, you should remove the battery from your scooter before transportation. Scooter batteries also should be stored separately from other devices. 

Speaking of international airlines, the rules are similar to those set for domestic flights. But you should check your carrier’s policy before booking the flight. It may differ from country to country and from airline to airline.

Rules by State

As we stated before, rules for electric scooters may differ from state to state and even from city to city. Of course, there is no need to mention all 50 states, so let’s take a look at some of them.

Arizona

Arizona sets electric scooters within the same category as bikes. The Grand Canyon State has not only a speed limit (20 mph) but also a weight limit set at 75 lbs. Devices under this limit are free of registration, license, and insurance.

Alabama

In Alabama, electric scooters are legalized at the state level. Cities and local municipalities can set their own rules and they vary considerably. While some Alabama cities tend to struggle with the existence of electric scooters, others welcome the freedoms and conveniences the concept provides. 

For example, in Birmingham, electric scooters are classified as motor vehicles and require registration and motorcycle license. In Auburn and Tuscaloosa, scooters currently aren’t street legal.

Alaska

It´s allowed to ride since 14 years old and with a level M2 permit. The riders above 16 years old can use M1 and M3 permits. It is required to wear a helmet. You can ride on roadways, paths, and sidewalks. It is not allowed to overtake other vehicles in the lane.

California

Many people associate California with wealth and high-tech pioneering. E-scooters are pretty common here. So, it just couldn’t lead to making legislatures cover this type of transport means. For example, you should have a valid driver’s license, but there’s no need to register your scooter. 

Speaking of speed limits, it’s set at 15 miles per hour. Minors should wear helmets while riding their e-scooters.

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Colorado

Colorado is a rather liberal state in terms of electric scooter regulation. It’s allowed to ride on the sidewalks (the speed limit is 6 miles per hour). You can also ride on public roads at speeds less than 30 mph.

Electric bicycle and electric scooter riders are exempt from motor vehicle registration and license requirements.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, it isn´t allowed to ride electric scooters on a sidewalk, but you can ride on public roads. The speed should be less than 20mph. Children under 16 years old must wear a helmet.

Delaware

According to the state law in Delaware, you can´t ride electric scooters on public roads. Nevertheless, some cities in the state allow this. So, it´s advised to check with the local authority. A helmet is required for children under 16 years old.

Georgia

In Georgia, electric scooters are legal on bike paths and lanes, so users can only use them on public roads if there’s no lane available. The speed limit for scooters is 20 miles per hour, and the weight limit is 100lbs.

Indiana

Indiana uses the bike laws to regulate e-scooters. You can ride your scooter on public paths and roads. In addition, your e-scooter can´t weigh more than 100lbs and you should ride at a maximum speed of 20mph.

Texas

Another huge state is Texas. The speed limit there is pretty outrageous (solid 35 mph!). The state sets power limits up to 750W. You won´t need to register or get a license for your e-scooter. You must follow traffic laws and signs while riding. Meanwhile, Texas leaves cities and local municipalities to decide most regulations for scooters for themselves.

Kansas

Kansas legalized electric scooters at the state level. It´s not allowed to operate bikes or electric scooters on sidewalks or highways. You must have a valid driver’s license. Helmets are not required. 

New York

New York is one of the biggest e-scooter states with many owners here and there. You should be older than 16 and wear a helmet if you´re under 18. It´s prohibited to ride on sidewalks. 

Riders must keep to a maximum speed of 20mph. You also won’t be able to use an electric scooter on the roads with a speed of more than 30 miles per hour. A driving license and registration are not required.

District of Columbia / Washington D.C.

In Washington D.C., e-scooters are defined as personal mobility devices but not as motor vehicles. Therefore, you won’t need to register your scooter or have a license. It’s not allowed to use an e-scooter on sidewalks in the business district, but low-speed electric scooters are free to ride on most sidewalks – as long as they don’t exceed 10mph.

Another regulation unique to DC is that riders cannot wear headphones.

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Pennsylvania

A big neighbor of New York, Pennsylvania, is one of the most troublesome states for electric scooter owners. There are no clear rules for using e-scooters, and many say that it’s outright banned to ride one in Pennsylvania. Given that rules for electric scooters in nearby Delaware are very strict, too (it isn’t allowed to use the e-scooter on public roads, for example), it is not clear whether you can ride it. 

Kentucky 

Kentucky law sets the same operating standards for electric scooters as for bicycles. This means you won´t need to register them with the state or have insurance. E-scooters may be operated by a person 16 years of age and older. An e-scooter must be equipped with a headlamp and a rear red light to maximize visibility at night and in low weather conditions such as fog. 

Maryland  

Maryland State Law now regulates e-scooters under the same code as standard bicycles. This means that e-scooter riders must be operated on the road and follow all traffic laws. Currently, such scooters do not require a title, insurance, or motorcycle license. 

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, e-scooters are grouped with motorized scooters (ie mopeds). It is required to wear a helmet, you should yield to people walking, and provide an audible signal when passing. A driver’s license is necessary and the max speed is 20 mph.

Michigan

Michigan is a state associated with motors and cars. But there are a lot of electric scooters, too! They can only transport one person at a time, and the motor shouldn´t be greater than 2.500W. The rules are very similar to other states (the speed limit is set at 25 mph), but there’s one exemption: kids are allowed to ride them since 12 (wearing protective gear, of course). 

Scooters may not overtake other vehicles between lanes of traffic, and they should have a white front light visible from 500 feet away and a rear reflector visible from 600 feet away.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, you can travel on sidewalks and any street/road with a speed limit of 25mph, and riders must always stay in line with the speed limit. People under 17 years old must wear a helmet.

Maine

In Maine, safety comes first. When riding at night, a scooter must be equipped with a front white light and a red or amber rear light, as well as reflectors. The wheel diameter should be a maximum of 10 inches, and all riders need a license.

New Jersey

The attitude of the State of New Jersey is rather liberal. According to state law, electric scooters are seen as small motor vehicles. The speed limit is 19 mph. High-speed scooters are allowed. You don’t need a driving license or registration to use one on roads and streets. The children under 17 must wear a helmet. You can´t ride an electric scooter in the bike lanes or pedestrian lanes.

North Carolina

North Carolina sees an electric scooter exactly like any other vehicle. Therefore, you´ll need to register it and get a license to ride it. Also, the speed limit is 19 mph.

Nevada

In Nevada, scooters must not weigh more than 100 pounds without a rider and must not exceed a max speed of 20 miles per hour. Riders must be over 16 years old.

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Rhode Island 

Rhode Island does not have statewide legislation about electric scooters, and cities are free to set their laws. For example, the city of Providence requires a valid driver’s license or municipal ID. You can ride an e-scooter on sidewalks or streets, should go slow, and wear a helmet. On the street, you must follow all traffic rules.

South Dakota

South Dakota has no statewide laws addressing e-scooters, but they apply existing regulations for mopeds to them, including requirements for mirrors, lights, brakes, a license, insurance, and DMV registration. You must wear eye protection while driving if your scooter doesn´t have a windscreen that is big enough to provide adequate eye protection. Children under 18 should wear a helmet.

Utah

Utah has a speed limit for e-scooters set at 15 mph. It’s legal to ride a scooter everywhere bicycles are allowed.

Washington

The state law names e-scooters as motorized foot scooters. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour on roads and bike paths. Rules according to age are set by each city separately. You must use spotlights at night.

Florida

The speed limit is 15 mph and the age limit is 16 years old. You must run in bike lanes and follow the road rules of the bikes. Cities are free to create laws regarding the ownership of electric scooters.

Some states as New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, West Virginia,  Idaho, and others don´t have any statewide laws regarding electric scooters and have mostly left it to cities and local municipalities.

The laws are changing and it´s advised to refer to your local authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information. If you see something that isn’t correct in this article please let us know in the comments below.

An electric scooter is a very good transport means for the city and a good toy for fun! But you should ALWAYS remember about road safety rules and protective gear. 

It will make your fun time safe!

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