Ask The Attorney: Thrilling Indeed, But Are They Legal? New Hoverboard Laws Take Effect in California


Michael Rubinstein Esq

Hoverboards are the newest consumer craze! Whether it’s the IO Hawk or the PhunkeeDuck, hoverboards have become a must-have for technology enthusiasts.

Demand for hoverboards, also known as self-balancing scooters, continues to increase, despite their steep price. But according to a recent New York Times article, governments on the state and local level are passing conflicting laws, creating a maze of confusion for consumers wishing to ride their hoverboards in public.

New York is one such place. The state classifies hoverboards as motorized vehicles that cannot be registered. As such, they are illegal to ride in New York, even though they are a common sight throughout New York City. Across the Atlantic, the City of London has also banned the use of hoverboards due to safety concerns. And here in the United States, most major airlines prohibit transporting the rideable gadgets both in carry-on and checked luggage because they can catch fire.

With this in mind, the question is: Are hoverboards legal in California? Can they be ridden in public without restrictions?

The good news is that, effective January 1, 2016, California law governing hoverboards just became much clearer.

The California Vehicle Code now offers a definition for hoverboards. The legal term is an “electrically motorized board”, which is a 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, can transport one person, and is powered solely by a propulsion system on a paved, level surface that does not exceed 20 miles per hour.

Hoverboards in California now have similar laws to bicycles. Some key components of the new laws are:

• Hoverboards must be equipped with proper lights and reflectors for night-time riding;

• Hoverboards can be ridden in bicycle lanes but only where the speed limit for the street does not exceed 35 miles per hour;

• Hoverboards cannot exceed 15 miles per hour, whether on the street or the sidewalk;

• Local governments may restrict the use of hoverboards within their jurisdictions.

Some important laws governing hoverboard riders include:

• A hoverboard may only be operated by a person who is 16 years of age or older;

• A person riding a hoverboard must wear a bicycle helmet;

• A person riding a hoverboard shall not do so while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Riders should keep in mind that private property owners may restrict hoverboard use on their property. Some schools and universities have restricted hoverboard use on their campuses. Homeowner policies may also contain language restricting use on the premises, so be sure to check with your homeowner’s insurance for clarification.

Hoverboard riding may look fun and easy, but it does take some effort for the rider to develop balancing skills. Riders should use caution when first learning to avoid injuries.

And here’s another friendly reminder. Many Los Angeles area sidewalks are cracked, uneven, and in serious disrepair. Damaged sidewalks can pose safety risks to pedestrians and even more so for hoverboard riders who are required to balance and shift their body-weight to propel forwards. This can amplify the risks of tripping and serious injuries, G-d forbid. Keep this in mind when riding your hoverboard in the neighborhood.

Michael Rubinstein is a Los Angeles based personal injury and accident attorney. He can be reached at 213 293 6075 and at