California has recently enacted new laws to govern the use of hoverboards. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Hoverboard laws comparable to vehicle code

This week’s question is about last week’s column on hoverboards. It comes from Craig F. in the Mission, who asks:

Q: I am 15 years old and I got a hoverboard for Christmas. I was riding it on the sidewalk and a cop told me I couldn’t ride it there, that I was too young to use it, and that I needed a helmet. He said I could either get off and walk or that he would write me a ticket and confiscate the board. I felt like he was just busting my chops. Is this for real? What’s the dealeo, Dolan?

A: I am glad to see the San Francisco Examiner has readers of all ages and I thank you, Craig, for the question. It’s a timely one. California law has just recently developed in response to the new hoverboard technology.

On Feb. 24, 2015, Assemblymember Kristin Olson, from Assembly District 24, which includes parts of Stockton and Modesto, introduced Assembly Bill 604 in the state Legislature. AB 604 was introduced to address the issues of public safety concerning “Electrically Motorized Boards.” It was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 11, 2015, and sets forth the current state law on a number of electrically motorized boards.

First, the definition of Electrically Motorized Boards (EMB) has now been codified in California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 313.5 as follows: “An ‘Electrically Motorized Board’ is any wheeled device that has a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding that is not greater than 60 inches deep and 18 inches wide, is designed to transport only one person, and has an electric propulsion system averaging less than 1,000 watts, the maximum speed of which, when powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved level surface, is no more than 20 miles per hour. The device may be designed to also be powered by human propulsion.” A hoverboard falls within this definition.

The following are provisions set within the CVC regulating EMBs. Each is a section of the Vehicle Code.

21291: EMBs may only be operated by someone 16 years of age or older.

21292: No EMB operation on roads, bikeways, sidewalks, bicycle paths etc. without a helmet.

21293: EMBs operating on public streets, paths or trails at night must be equipped with the following: a) a lamp emitting white light that illuminates the area in front of the EMB, visible from 300 feet away (this may be attached to the operator); b) a red reflector on the rear that is visible from 500 feet away (this may be attached to the operator); and c) white or yellow reflector on each side visible from 200 feet away (this may be attached to the operator).

21294: EMBs can only be operated on roadways with a speed limit 35 miles or less unless it is operated entirely within a designated Class II or Class IV bikeway. A person shall not operate an electrically motorized board upon a highway, bikeway or any other public bicycle path, sidewalk or trail at a speed in excess of 15 miles per hour. Notwithstanding the previous 35 mile per hour restriction, EMBs can not be operated at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and the surface and width of the highway, bikeway, public bicycle path, sidewalk or trail, and in no event at a speed that endangers the safety of any person or property.

21296. It is unlawful for operation of an EMB while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug or under their combined influence.

21960: The Department of Transportation, as well as local and county governments, may enact further regulations applicable to their jurisdiction.

So Craig, that’s the dealeo. With every new technology comes a new set of problems and a new set of laws to address them. I can tell you these problems are real: My office has been contacted by several people injured on or by these EMBs. If you or someone you know has been injured by an EMB, you should reach out to a trial lawyer, like myself, to advise you of your rights.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to

Chris DolanlawlegalSan Francisco

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