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Before you scoot off: know your risk

E-scooters are popping up in cities across the country.

There’s no exact count of the number of scooters out there, but the National Association of City Transportation Officials recently found that riders took 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters in 2018. And their presence is expanding rapidly.

So what should you know before you hop on?

KNOW THE LAW

It’s critical to know the law in your area when it comes to e-scooters as failing to adhere might result in a ticket.

In California, for example, scooters can ride on some streets and bike lanes, but not sidewalks. And under a new law, adults do not have to wear a helmet. But in nearby Oregon, riders must wear a helmet and while they also must ride on the street, they are prohibited from parks, sidewalks and certain paths. There are also often rules on where to park the scooters, so as not to crowd sidewalks or block crosswalks and other critical areas.

State and local governments are rapidly updating laws as they adjust to the introduction of scooters.

PROTECT YOURSELF

The risk is on the rider in most cases.

Lime, for example, provides up to $1 million in liability insurance that would kick in under certain circumstances. But many companies do not provide any, leaving the onus on the user. It may be hard however to find insurance to protect you if something happens, according to Lucian McMahon, a senior research specialist at the Insurance Information Institute.

A standard auto insurance policy won’t cover something with fewer than four wheels, and motorcycle insurance doesn’t usually cover a scooter that requires you stand, McMahon said. A standard homeowners policy generally excludes liability from use of a motor vehicle, which in this case is defined as any self-propelled vehicle. A personal liability umbrella might offer some protection, but it depends on the terms and not many people carry these.

One company, Voom, is trying to develop on-demand insurance for e-scooters but said it won’t be available until later this year.

If you get in an accident, injuries could be covered by health insurance. Or if you’re hit by a car, it could be on the other driver to cover you. Additionally, if you were riding the scooter for work, you might be eligible for workers compensation. But you still face the bulk of the risk in most cases if you were to injure someone else or their property. Not to mention you may be on the hook for any damage to the scooter itself.

McMahon’s suggestion? Check with your agent before you ride.

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