Scooters Are Now Subject to Tennessee DUI Laws as Well as City Statutes

person riding electric scooter on pavementResidents of Nashville, Knoxville, and other cities across the state may have noticed a new trend zipping past them: electric scooters. These 15-mile-per-hour vehicles are easily rented with a few taps on a smartphone, allowing tourists and natives to easily speed through pedestrian traffic. However, the steep increase in these user-friendly vehicles has also caused a number of collisions and injuries, some of which have proved fatal. As a result, Tennessee lawmakers have enacted legislation to reduce injuries, keep traffic lanes clear, and even hold riders accountable for drinking and scootering.

Tennessee Adds DUI Provision to State Scooter Laws

E-scooters are at high risk of colliding with cars, pedestrians, and even other scooters, especially since most riders receive no training prior to use. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that mopeds and scooters are responsible for causing 20% of crash-related traumatic brain injuries, and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center has recently reported treating at least one scooter-related injury every day.

Tennessee e-scooter programs have caused a number of problems, including:

  • Drinking and riding. In response to the growing number of alcohol-related scooter injuries, electric foot scooters were added to the list of vehicles that cannot be operated under the influence of alcohol. As of July 1, 2019, riders whose blood alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit may be charged with a DUI in Tennessee.
  • Registration. Riders who own rather than rent scooters are responsible for registering their vehicles using the same registration process as a motorcycle in Tennessee. Any scooter that meets the definition of a “motor driven cycle” must be registered by the Vehicle Services Division of the Department of Revenue (DOR) and be compliant with state motorcycle insurance laws before riding on roadways is permitted. However, the inspection and regulation of rental scooters is done by the company, increasing the odds that a scooter may be defective without a rider’s knowledge.
  • Insurance concerns. Riders who regularly rent electric scooters should be aware that their existing car insurance policies may not cover them for an accident, since insurers typically exclude liability coverage for vehicles with fewer than four wheels. Riders are encouraged to purchase scooter insurance or increase the amount of umbrella coverage on their auto insurance policies to protect against scooter injury losses.

Nashville Laws Take Aim at Electric Scooters

Nashville has had a difficult time adjusting to the introduction of scooters, and city officials have struggled to contain problems caused by the devices. Today, riders renting scooters from Bird, Lime, Lyft, or other providers must follow a number of municipal statutes, including:

  • Rider requirements. All riders must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid driver's license to operate rental e-scooters. In addition, only one person may ride each scooter at a time. 
  • Location restrictions. Scooters may not be ridden on sidewalks within a business district, including within 600 feet of a hotel, bank, office building, train station, or in downtown areas.
  • Parking restrictions. The Metro Council has instituted fines for riders and scooter companies if scooters are illegally parked at bus stops, loading zones, driveways, park benches, parking pay stations, curb ramps, and other restricted parking areas.
  • Safe riding practices. All riders must obey the rules of the road, including sharing lanes of travel, staying alert, and obeying right-of-way laws. Riders should yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning when passing them and refrain from using scooters to perform tricks or dangerous maneuvers.

If you were hurt in an accident involving an electric scooter, our injury lawyers can answer your questions and tell you your next steps at no cost to you—and if you decide to hire us to represent you, we do not collect anything unless we secure a recovery. To set up a free initial consultation, simply fill out the short contact form on this page. For more information, you can also request a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.