Can You Get a DWI on an Electric Scooter?
Posted in DWI - Driving While Intoxicated on February 1, 2019
Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have grown increasingly popular over recent years, and now rideshare programs for electric scooters and bicycles offer an ecologically responsible alternative to public transportation or driving in large cities. While these programs and services help alleviate traffic congestion and limit the consumption of fossil fuels, there are significant issues with electric scooter and bike sharing programs across the country.
Some users do not recognize their rights and responsibilities while using these vehicles. Some ride irresponsibly or in dangerous places, such as sidewalks where they can injure pedestrians. Anyone who wants to use an electric scooter from services like Bird should know their responsibilities while riding. Recently, new changes in Texas laws have led to many DUI arrests for operating electric scooters under the influence of alcohol. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, contact a Houston DWI lawyer today.
Texas Vehicle Laws and Electric Scooters
Texas law considers any vehicle that uses the road as a motor vehicle. Therefore, the people operating the vehicles have a duty of care to abide by the traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely. Since electric scooters and bicycles use the road, their operators technically qualify as drivers and must therefore follow all applicable laws for drivers in the area.
The Texas Vehicle Code considers operating a motor vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, recreational vehicle, or amusement park ride under the influence of alcohol as driving under the influence (DUI). Riding a horse also qualifies as vehicle operation under Texas law. Since electric scooter sharing services like Bird are popping up at Texas Tech and other universities in Texas, college students and bar-goers may want to think twice about using these scooters to go home after a night of hard partying.
DUI Laws in Texas
Texas adheres to the same blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) standards as most of the rest of the country; a BAC of .08% or more qualifies a vehicle operator for a DUI citation. The same standards apply for all vehicles including bikes, scooters, and horses using the road. If a police officer suspects any vehicle operator is under the influence, the officer will conduct a traffic stop and potentially arrest the operator for DUI.
Texas law also requires a driver’s license to operate any motorized vehicle on the road with a few exceptions. If you are unsure whether your current licensing status qualifies you to operate an electric scooter in Texas, visit your local DMV office to learn more before paying for services like Bird.
DUI Penalties in Texas
The type of vehicle involved in a DUI violation does not necessarily matter; the punishments remain consistent unless the driver is under 21, or a commercial driver operating a vehicle for business purposes. Most electric scooter users are local commuters, students, and visiting businesspeople who want a quick and easy way to get around town without the hassle of a taxi or public transportation. Most of these individuals will therefore need to abide by the .08% BAC limit for vehicle operation to avoid DUI citations.
A first DUI offense in Texas carries a potential punishment of fines up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, and driver’s license suspension up to a year. Additionally, an offender will need to pay a $1,000 to $2,000 fee each year for three years to retain their restored driver’s license after the suspension finishes. For a second offense, penalties increase to up to $4,000 in fines, one month to one year in jail, and a year or more of driver’s license suspension. An offender will also need to pay the annual maintenance fee of up to $2,000 per year for three years following a suspension.
Ultimately, if there is any concern that you are over .08% BAC, it is best to avoid using any electric scooter in Texas and instead call for a ride or use public transportation to get where you need to go. There is always an alternative to risking a DUI arrest, and it is important to remember that operating a scooter is equivalent to driving a car when it comes to DUIs in Texas.