If you’ve heard that hoverboards are illegal but you’ve also noticed people riding them in local parks and around downtown Walnut Creek, you may wonder about the legal status of this latest gadget craze.
Rumors have swirled online in recent months that a new bill banned hoverboards nationwide. While it’s true that the state of California passed a law requiring hoverboard riders to be 16 years of age or older, laws vary across the nation.
What Are Hoverboards, and How Do They Work?
The name “hoverboard” comes from the movie “Back to the Future II,” in which it referred to a levitating platform used for transportation. Today’s hoverboards, however, do not levitate; they are two-wheeled, “self-balancing” scooters with a small platform on which the rider stands. They do not include handlebars.
Hoverboards use a gyroscope that measures the balance of the device, while motors keep the hoverboard balanced and propel it forward. Power output to the motors is managed by microprocessors, while batteries provide fuel.
A rider’s purpose on a hoverboard is staying upright while moving forward; the device’s microprocessors detect the direction in which the rider is leaning. Meanwhile, the gyroscope collects information about board tilt while the motors adjust power output to help the rider maintain balance. Batteries, microprocessors and other components vary among types of hoverboards and create different riding experiences.
The Concerns About Hoverboards
Hoverboards became massively popular nationwide over the 2015 Christmas season. They were one of the most popular Christmas gifts; eBay reportedly sold a hoverboard every 12 seconds on Cyber Monday 2015.
Since that time, however, concerns about the safety of these personal transportation devices also has increased significantly. YouTube and other websites already feature thousands of videos of hoverboard riders “wiping out,” and many accidents have resulted in serious injuries. In some cases, poorly made, cheap hoverboards have exploded and burst into flames. As a result, online retailing behemoth Amazon stopped selling some models, and Overstock stopped all hoverboard sales.
London and New York City have taken action to reduce the use of the devices on city sidewalks and streets. As of the end of 2015, the U.S. government reportedly was investigating 22 reports of hoverboards catching on fire.
Many Hoverboard Injuries Reported
The biggest danger of hoverboards is the serious injuries that can result when riders crash. In December, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 70 emergency room visits attributable to hoverboards. Most injuries resulted from collisions and falls, although one visit resulted from smoke inhalation after a hoverboard caught on fire. In another case, a rider’s finger became caught in a wheel, and another person had a finger run over by a hoverboard.
Although most of the hoverboards were given to children as Christmas presents, parents suffered many of the injuries. Several prominent adults — including a professional athlete and a Florida congressman — have been injured when riding the devices.
In December, a CPSC spokesperson noted that the agency monitors injuries from the devices and looks into every new report of a device bursting into flames, and it tests a variety of hoverboards in its lab. No safety standards exist for hoverboards, the spokesperson added. However, the agency has issued recommendations, including wearing safety gear such as wrist guards and a helmet when riding.
New Hoverboard Rules in California
Under California Assembly Bill No. 604, which went into effect Jan. 1, the use of hoverboards, categorized as “electrically motorized boards,” is prohibited on highways when the rider is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The new law also requires hoverboard riders to wear helmets when riding on highways, bikeways or other public trails, sidewalks or bike paths. Riders must be at least 16 years old to operate the devices.
In addition, hoverboards must include specific safety equipment and must incorporate measures to restrict speed. Before January 2021, the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol will report to the state Legislature about the effects hoverboards have on traffic safety.
Hoverboards are not allowed on airplanes; several airlines, including American, Delta and United, have banned the devices on flights, even in checked luggage. The Federal Aviation Administration has noted that the high-wattage lithium batteries hoverboards use can spark fires in the baggage compartments of planes.
Individuals injured by a hoverboard on the job may be eligible for benefits through the California workers’ compensation system. Benefits provided through workers’ compensation cover your medical care and partially replace your wages if you lose time from work due to your injury. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist you with making a claim.
Consult with a Knowledgeable Attorney About Hoverboard Injuries
If you or a family member have been injured by a hoverboard, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical care, time lost from work, property damage, pain and suffering, and other negative impacts. To speak with a Walnut Creek personal injury attorney, please contact the Appel Law Firm LLP at (888) 511-6905.