In most cities in the United States, it’s illegal to drive a mobility scooter on the road. Laws regarding the use of mobility scooters are typically developed locally by municipal bylaws, and these vary from one city to another. Some communities may allow mobility scooters to travel on side roads or within gated communities, depending on their size, design and top speed.
Seniors with limited mobility due to arthritis, diabetes or other health-related issues might use a mobility scooter in place of a manual wheelchair to help them maintain a more independent lifestyle and delay the need to move into an assisted living facility. Some seniors use mobility scooters as their main form of transportation, relying on them to run errands or shop for groceries in the neighborhood.
Why Do Municipalities Limit Road Travel for Mobility Scooters?
Regardless of how “road-worthy” a mobility scooter appears, most local municipalities legally define the riders of these scooters as pedestrians who are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as other pedestrians. Drivers of mobility scooters should travel on the sidewalk when possible and use the crosswalk to move from one street to another.
Some municipalities allow mobility scooters to travel side roads or low-volume city streets if there are no sidewalks available for them to use or the local government has no laws against it. Even then, drivers of mobility scooters must stay as close to the sidewalk (or the right side of the road) as possible.
What Is a Road-Legal Mobility Scooter?
The mobility scooter is becoming increasingly popular among seniors as it evolves to look less like a wheelchair and more like a recreational vehicle. The modern mobility scooter can travel at a speed of 5 to 15 miles per hour and has a driving range of up to 35 miles, making it an appealing transportation option for seniors who live in urban neighborhoods.
Seniors who use mobility scooters for their daily travel needs require a scooter that can travel at a speed of at least 8 miles per hour if they have any hope of driving it on the road, as that’s the speed many cities use to define a “road legal” vehicle. Additionally, some cities also require mobility scooters to have effective brakes, lights and instrumentation, such as an odometer or a horn, to be able to travel the same road as other motorized vehicles.
The mobility scooter isn’t designed to be driven on highways or on high-traffic roads. Even those considered “road legal” aren’t allowed in traffic lanes or turn lanes with other vehicles. Seniors who plan to use their mobility scooters on the road should review their city’s local bylaws regarding motorized vehicles.