With Gasparilla this weekend, it’s not just pirates invading the streets of Tampa Bay; motorized scooters for rent have popped up all over the Tampa Bay area over the last year. These aren’t just your average razor scooters like the one you had in 7th grade. No, these are electric scooters with a top speed of 20 mph. Today 20 mph may not sound very fast, but when you’re zipping in between pedestrians in SoHo, or around traffic on Ashley Drive, electric scooters start to seem a lot less innocent. But with the amount of traffic and pedestrian traffic expected for Gasparilla this weekend, the City of Tampa is not allowing scooters to operate near Gasparilla. It also makes sense given that the scooter rental companies will not be able to pick up the scooters when the batteries die.
Are scooters dangerous?
Tampa man, Dane Williams was riding a Bird scooter near Amelie Arena in July, when he accidentally put his foot on the ground as he was traveling at 20 mph. As his leg twisted he immediately broke several bones in his leg and was transferred to Tampa General Hospital. Between his surgery, which permanently put a 10mm thick metal rod in his leg, and his other medical bills, Williams’ tab is sitting at about $100,000, and he has no idea how much of that his health insurance will cover. Across the country, Andrew Hardey was riding an electric scooter in downtown Los Angeles when a car struck him traveling 50 mph, leaving him with two broken legs, a shattered kneecap, three fractured vertebrae, a punctured lung, and severe head injury. Doctors told him he’d be paralyzed for life. While Hardey has miraculously learned to walk again, he probably won’t be riding a scooter any time soon. Furthermore, head injuries occur in 1 in 3 scooter accidents because nobody wears a helmet.
Can you get a DUI on a scooter?
Depending on the State, you can get arrested for a DUI on a scooter. The scooters have been introduced to over 100 cities across the country, and while they are intended to be used to assist commuters to navigate urban areas, they are more than often used for joyrides after happy hour. Let’s just get this out of the way; you can get a DUI on an electric scooter in Florida. Forget the fact that getting on one of these when you’re six shots deep is stupid, it’s illegal and negligent, because Florida Statues classify electric scooters, just like bicycles as vehicles.
While electric scooter rental companies have tried to enact safety measures to ensure rider safety, such as limiting operation area to places with low vehicle traffic and boasting safety warnings, but injuries continue to rise. Perhaps this is because when we look at scooters we don’t look at them with the same respect that we do cars. If we did, perhaps we would see a decrease in injuries and accidents resulting from these scooters. Scooter riders have a legal obligation to obey the same traffic laws as drivers, but how many people who ride them know that? Besides, running a red light ‘because I don’t see anyone coming’ seems a lot more innocent on a 30-pound scooter than your 3,000-pound car. Be honest with yourself, you’d be a lot more hesitant to get behind the wheel of a car after few drinks than you would be to hop on a scooter and ride home on the sidewalk. The truth is, those are both terrible ideas, and if you can afford that 4th margarita, you can afford to call an Uber.
So if you do decide to hop on a Bird or Lime scooter, do yourself and the rest of Tampa Bay a favor, and be careful, alert of your surroundings, curious to pedestrians, and above all, sober.