By Bill Parry
Less than a week after he introduced a measure to legalize and regulate hoverboards, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) announced he is making substantial policy changes to the legislation.
In light of recent reports that some of the devices are igniting into flames or exploding, the new proposal empowers the State Department’s Division of Consumer Protection with the capacity to investigate complaints about these incidents, as well as keep a public database that catalogues them.
If the division determines that hoverboards or electric unicycles have exploded, the agency would post the brand, model, manufacturer and retail seller of the malfunctioning device on its website.
“We have to deal with this issue head-on because the reality is this is a new technology,” Peralta said. “As we await new safety standards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, we must take interim steps to ensure that shoddy versions of these devices and poor components are not finding their way into the marketplace.”
In addition, manufacturers and retail sellers that distribute devices that explode or burst into flames will face a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation. On a third violation, these businesses would lose the ability to sell hoverboards and electric unicycles in New York State.
“This is a three strikes and you’re out scenario,” Peralta said. “We simply cannot have people selling products that may endanger the safety of consumers.”
Another amendment to the legislation relates to the “reckless operation” of these popular devices. If a person rides these devices in a manner that endangers the safety or property of another, the hoverboard or electric unicycle operator will face fines under New York state law.
Like current New York City rules that apply to skateboarding or in-line skating on sidewalks, operators of hoverboards and electric unicycle users would not face a fine if riding them safely on sidewalks. However, reckless operators of hoverboards or electric unicycles will face penalties ranging from $50 to $100.
“Hoverboard and electric unicycle riders don’t belong in urban streets where a sidewalk is available,” Peralta said. “The last thing we want is to have a hoverboard operator get into a major accident with a truck, car or motorbike, and while riding on a city sidewalk, they have to make sure they do so in a safe manner, while providing pedestrians with the utmost respect.”
The legislation further mandates that hoverboard or electric unicycle riders under the age of 18 wear protective gear while operating these devices—specifically a helmet, knee pads and wrist guards.
“We must ensure that our kids ride these popular devices in a manner that is very safe,” Peralta said.
The bill continues to provide municipal authorities with the power to create their own additional regulations regarding these devices since there is no “one size fits all” approach available at the State level to address the wide range of varying traffic concerns across New York State.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr