New Hoverboard Law Takes Effect January 2016-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
It’s been rumored that a hoverboard law taking effect on January 1, 2016, permits and regulates the use to hoverboards in public spaces.
It’s true that a hoverboard law was set to take effect in California in January 2016. That law only applies to California, however, and even there local officials could restrict or ban the use of hoverboards in public places.
Simply put: Hoverboard laws across the country are a mess. Whether or not hoverboards are legal in public spaces depends entirely on where you are. Each state — and city, for that matter — has its own hoverboard policy.
California brought some clarity to hoverboard regulation with a hoveverboard law that was set to take effect on January 1, 2016. Before that, it was technically a crime to operate hoverboards (which were classified as motorized skateboards under the law) on sidewalks, roadways, bikeways or any other public trail systems. However, the new hoverboard law (which can be viewed in its entirety here) changes that.
The law offers the first legal definition of “hoverboard,” which is referred to as an “electronically motorized board” under the law. It also makes hoverboards legal in some public spaces when certain restrictions are met. Hoverboard riders can’t be intoxicated, and they must be at least 16, according to the law:
This bill would define the term “electrically motorized board.” The bill would prohibit the operation of an electrically motorized board upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. The bill would require the operator of an electrically motorized board to wear a helmet while operating an electrically motorized board upon a highway, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trail. The bill would require an operator to be at least 16 years of age in order to operate an electrically motorized board. The bill would also require electrically motorized boards to be equipped with safety equipment, as specified, and restrict the operation speed of electrically motorized boards. Because a violation of these provisions would be punishable as an infraction, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The law also opens the door for cities in California to pass their own laws regulating the use of hoverboards. That means you’ll have to check local ordinances on hoverboards before to make sure you’re not breaking the law. Police in Los Angeles have said that hoverboards will not be allowed on public walkways there, for example. And many private property owners have banned hoverboards over liability concerns, so the new hoverboard law doesn’t give riders free reign by any measure.
And although California has become the first state to officially define, regulate and permit hoverboards, hoverboards are still illegal in most parts of the country. Other states and municipalities have used pre-existing laws to determine whether or not hoverboards are allowed. In New York City, for example, public officials have deemed hoverboards illegal under New York State Traffic Law 114-d. The code regulates the use of electronic “personal assist” devices in public spaces.
A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Transportation has explained that the law’s definition of “electronic personal assist mobility device” was broad enough to include hoverboards, and that they would be regulated as such. In NYC, because the population is above 1 million people, electronic personal assist device riders must be licensed, and the devices must be registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Hoverboards are illegal, the spokesperson said, because the NYSDMV would refuse to register them for legal use:
NYSDMV’s position is that these vehicles are likely “Electric personal assist mobility devices.” NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 114-d defines “Electric personal assist mobility device” as “Every self-balancing, two non-tandem wheeled device designed to transport one person by means of an electric propulsion system with an average output of not more than seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower), and the maximum speed of which on a paved level surface, when propelled solely by its electric propulsion system while ridden by an operator weighing one hundred seventy pounds, is less than twelve and one-half miles per hour.”
NYS VTL 125 generally defines “motor vehicles” as “Every vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power.” However, VTL 125 specifically excludes some classes of vehicles from the definition of “motor vehicles.” Under VTL 126(a-1), “electrical personal assistive mobility devices operated outside a city with a population of one million or more” are not considered motor vehicles.
However, in NYC, because the city population is greater than one million, NYSDMV considers “hoverboards” that meet the definition of “electric personal assist mobility devices” the same as motor vehicles.
Based on that interpretation, it would be illegal to operate a hoverboard in NYC without a valid license to drive a motor vehicle.
Beyond that, the motor vehicle would need to be registered by NYSDMV (which NYSDMV will not do), inspected, insured, and otherwise treated as, and subject to regulation like, any other motor vehicle. A person who operates a hoverboard in NYC (or any other NYS city with a population greater than a million) would be subject to arrest and prosecution for myriad NYS VTL violations, including, but not limited to, driving a motor vehicle without valid registration or insurance.
So, it’s true that a hoverboard law was set to take effect in California on January 1, 2016. But that law doesn’t give hoverboards free reign there. Hoverboard riders in California (and other states) are still subject to local laws and ordinances, some of which make hoverboards illegal and subject to steep fines. That’s why we’re classifying this one as both truth and fiction.