California Laws for Electric Scooters

By Bruce Walker
No driver's license, Then no motorized scooter
on my scooter image by Renata Osinska from

If you are one of those old-school scooter users who propel themselves along using just their feet and their legs, then you are usually constrained only by the pedestrian traffic laws and your own common sense. However, if you decide to add an electric motor to make your scooting less labor-intensive, you become subject to many of the same laws and safety regulations that apply to motorized vehicles, such as motorcycles and cars.


California defines a motorized scooter as a two-wheeled device, powered by electricity or other means, with handlebars and a floor panel that you stand on while riding. It can have a seat, if the seat does not interfere with standing.

Operating Regulations

Effective Jan. 1, 2005, anyone riding a motorized scooter in California must be at least 16 years old and have a Class C driver's license or driver's permit (called a learner's permit in some states). You can ride a motorized scooter on a bike path or trail unless specifically prohibited. You do not need special license tags or insurance to operate an electric scooter. You can't use "no-hands" riding, and no passengers are allowed to share your scooter.

Safety Regulations

You must wear a bicycle helmet when riding a motorized scooter. The helmet must be approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. You may not ride faster than 15 mph. If the posted speed limit is 25 mph or faster, you must ride in a bicycle lane. In areas with speed limits of under 25 mph, you need not be in a bike lane. However, you must at all times ride as close to the right-hand curb as is safe, unless you are passing someone or making a left turn. It is illegal to ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk, unless you are crossing over to get to or exit the main road.

Nighttime Scooting

Your scooter must have a white headlight that can be seen from the front or the sides from at least 300 feet away. You must have a red reflector that can been seen from at least 500 feet away on the back of your scooter. You also must have white or yellow reflectors on the sides of your scooter visible from at least 200 feet away.

About the Author

Bruce Walker worked at the Washington Post for almost 20 years. He was a makeup editor for the weekly entertainment section, and he occasionally wrote stories and movie reviews. He also has written for airline in-flight magazines and was a contributing writer for several of the Fodor's travel guides.