By Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready
Fall is finally here in Oklahoma. Between the golden leaves and cool crisp air, you will begin to see electric scooters flooding the city streets. These rental scooters can be found along the curb in hundreds of U.S. cities including Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, and Stillwater. Before you download the app and hop on, there are a few things you should know to protect yourself.
According to Consumer Reporters, eight people in the U.S. have died while using a rent-by-the-minute dockless electric scooter since the fall of 2017. One of those deaths was a 5-year-old boy who was riding with his mother in Tulsa in April. Along with numerous injuries, these deaths highlight the potential dangers of the scooters. Understanding the insurance implications related to electric scooters will help you make responsible decisions. Your health insurance could help defray the cost of medical bills in case of an accident. But what if you are riding a scooter and you hit a pedestrian, damage someone’s property or cause a car accident? You might think your auto insurance would kick in; however, most car insurance doesn’t generally cover vehicles with less than four wheels. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover an accident that occurs on a traditional bicycle, but it does not cover motorized bike or scooter trips.
The two largest scooter companies in the United States generally place the responsibility for accidents on riders by listing in their rental agreements that riders relieve the companies of liability. You must agree to those terms before you can ride. And despite the scooter companies’ liability insurance, responsibility for damages is likely to fall on your shoulders because of the terms and conditions agreed upon when you downloaded the app.
What can you do to protect yourself? Call your insurance agent. You may be able to add an umbrella policy to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. An umbrella policy can cover more scenarios and include higher limits for coverage than a typical policy.
There are a few other ways to protect yourself on an e-scooter.
Wear a helmet: While it is not required by law in Oklahoma to wear a helmet while riding a scooter or a bicycle, it is highly recommended.
* Operate the scooter in right-hand lanes and bike lanes where possible: Your agreement with your scooter rental company will tell you to use streets and bike lanes. Riding motorized scooters on sidewalks is illegal in most cities, and you can be cited for doing so. Know where you can ride before you hop on. * Keep your eyes on the road: You may be tempted to share photos or videos of your new adventure on social media while operating. Always pay attention to the road. * Inspect the scooter before you ride: Check to make sure the brakes are working properly before taking off.
I’m encouraging everyone who plans to ride an electric scooter, to get ready. Know your coverage. Anticipate what could happen, and know what your insurance will and won’t cover. And most importantly, be careful.
You can also watch my recent ride on an e-scooter on the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s YouTube channel.
If you have questions about other insurance issues, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.