By: Leslie S. Harkavy, Esquire
Doesn’t it seem like everywhere you travel in a Massachusetts city these days, be it Boston or Cambridge, there are tons of people getting around using motorized scooters? Don’t get me wrong, bicycles are still very popular especially on the newly created bike paths in these cities. But – there seems to be an all-out explosion of people using motorized scooters for urban travel. These are not quite the kick scooters we all know and love from our childhoods, rather these scooters are way superior and are now motorized! What exactly are motorized scooters, why are they so popular, and what laws apply to operating them in Massachusetts?
What is a motorized scooter? According to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 90, section 1, a ”motorized scooter” is defined as any 2 wheeled tandem or 3 wheeled device, that has handlebars, designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, powered by an electric or gas powered motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion. The definition of ”motorized scooter” includes a motorcycle, electric bicycle or motorized bicycle or a 3 wheeled motorized wheelchair. M.G. L. c. 90, Section 1. So basically, a motorized scooter is a new version of our childhood kick scooters, only with a motor.
Why have motorized scooters become so popular over the last few years? According to Insight Success, During Covid, people adapted to getting around without using public transportation. Searching for contactless inexpensive transportation, electric scooters fit the bill. Electric scooters are affordable, much more so than gas powered scooters or motorcycles, especially if just being used for a short distance such as going back and forth from home to school or work. An entry level scooter costs about $350.00, which is less expensive than a moped or motorcycle. It does not need gas. It is rechargeable. They are easy to operate, portable, fun to ride and easy to store. They require little maintenance. They also are environmentally friendly and perfect for short journeys. No sweat is required for operating them.
What law governs the operation of motorized scooters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? If you operate a motorized scooter in Massachusetts, you might want to be aware of what laws apply to you. The applicable law governing motorized scooters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is c. 90 Section 1E. This law reads as follows: Section 1E. A motorized scooter shall not be operated on any way by a person not possessing a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit, nor at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour. A person operating a motorized scooter upon a way shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting scooters or bicycles have been posted, and shall be subject to all traffic laws and regulations of the commonwealth and the regulations contained in this section, except that: (1) a scooter operator shall keep to the right side of the road at all times, including when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way; and (2) the scooter shall be equipped with operational stop and turn signals so that the operator can keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. No person shall operate a motor scooter upon any way at any time after sunset or before sunrise.
A person convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $25 for the first violation, not less than $25 nor more than $50 for a second violation and not less than $50 nor more than $100 for a third or subsequent violation. Therefore, if you violate the law regarding motorized scooters, you will be subject to a monetary fine.
Do you need to wear a helmet while operating a motor scooter? While you may see many people riding around on a motorized scooter without wearing a helmet, the law in Massachusetts does require that you put one on while using your scooter. More specifically: “A person operating a motorized scooter shall wear protective headgear conforming with such minimum standards of construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe.” In addition, many towns and cities may have their own regulations regarding use of helmets. For instance, in the City of Cambridge, Pursuant to Article XXIII, Sec. 23.1 – of – Regulations for Motorized Scoters in the City of Cambridge (a) Every person operating a motorized scooter upon any way, street, highway……under the control of the City of Cambridge shall wear protective headgear confirming to the standards governing bicycle helmets.
This is consistent with Massachusetts law. Pursuant to Chapter 90, Section 1E, of the Massachusetts General laws, “a person operating a motorized scooter shall wear protective headgear confirming with such minimum standards of construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe. Again, a person convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $25.00 for the first violation, not less than $25.00 nor more than $50 for a second violation and lot less than $50 nor more than $100 for a third or subsequent violation.
Is there a minimum age restriction to ride a scooter? Yes – In order to ride a motorized scooter in MA, you cannot be under 16 years of age.
Do you need a driver’s license to ride a motorized scooter in Massachusetts? Yes – you must have a valid license or permit.
Is there a speed limit for motorized scooters in Massachusetts? Yes – Motorized scooters should not be driven at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour.
Do you need to register your Massachusetts scooter with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles? No – The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles does not register motorized scooters because they are not recognized as motor vehicles. In addition, motorized scooters have many operating restrictions: They cannot be operated at speeds greater than 20mph and cannot be ridden on state highways or limited access roadways. .
Can you carry a passenger on your motorized scooter? No – Massachusetts General Laws c. 90, section 1E specifically states that: “a person operating a motorized scooter shall not permit any other person to ride as a passenger on the scooter.” Therefore, no passengers allowed.
If you are injured in an accident with an automobile while riding a motor scooter – do you get to claim Personal Injury Protection Benefits (PIP)? No –According to Part 2. Personal Injury protection benefits of the 7th edition of the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Insurance Policy “We will not pay PIP benefits to or for: 1. Anyone who, at the time of the accident, was operating or occupying a motorcycle, any motor vehicle not subject to motor vehicle registration, or a motorized bicycle, including a moped.” It appears that because the motorized scooter is not subject to motor vehicle registration – PIP does not apply.
While motorized scooters increase in popularity, so have personal injuries increased due to collisions with automobiles. We are seeing an uptick in our office regarding injuries caused by the operation of motorized scooters on public ways. Not only do automobile drivers need to be careful and on the lookout for scooters, but motorized scooter operators also need to operate their scooters as safely as they can.
At Nadeau Harkavy LLC, we have over 60 years combined experience representing injured people and their families when they have been involved in a motorized scooter accident, motor vehicle accident, trip and fall or other type of accident. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients over the years to help them get on with their lives after suffering the consequences of a serious accident. We make sure everything is done to protect your interests while you and your family concentrate on getting better. We handle all types of accident cases including wrongful death and brain injury. We represent injured motor scooter operators, motor vehicle drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, as well as other types of car accident cases such as motorcycle, and skateboard cases. We also handle other types of injury cases such as trip and fall, slip and fall, dog bite, construction site, and catastrophic injury accidents. If you or a loved one has been harmed through no fault of your own, call us today for a free consultation about your legal rights at 617-674-7640.