Two borough lawmakers want to make hoverboards legal

By Bill Parry

Hoverboards were among the best selling items during the holiday season despite the fact that they are currently illegal across the five boroughs because they are considered motor vehicles and all motor vehicles must be registered with the state DMV.

But the state Department of Transportation contends motorized self-balancing devices like the hoverboard cannot be registered with the DMV, so they are not permitted.

Therefore, the NYPD can fine anyone caught gliding on the motorized, self-balancing, two-wheel scooters in public up to $500. Now two Queens lawmakers and several government colleagues are trying to change that. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) say they plan to push new legislation that would create a registry and declassify the hoverboard as a motor vehicle under New York state law.

Under the proposal, hoverboards and electric unicycles would no longer be considered “electric personal mobility assistive devices.” In addition, state and municipal authorities would have the ability to create unique sets of regulations regarding hoverboards and electric unicycles.

“This is a bill that tries to keep up with technology,” Peralta said. “Because hoverboards and electric unicycles are not cars or motor bikes, my proposal removes these devices from what is considered a ‘motor vehicle’ under state law.”

Peralta said during Cyber Monday, about 7,500 hoverboards were sold nationwide, which means one every 12 seconds.

“These are some of the hottest items on store shelves and the idea here is that if they are sold legally in New York, as they are now, you should also be able to ride them in New York,” Peralta said.

His legislation would render the rule said to pertain to the use of hoverboards and electric unicycles in the city obsolete, creating a separate category for these devices. Following the creation of these categories, state and municipal authorities would then have the power to act on safety and operational issues that are unique to the use of these technologies.

“Although you won’t find me on one, New Yorkers of all ages should be able to enjoy their gifts without the threat of a $200 to $500 fine,” Weprin said. “State law must keep up with technology and our bill does this for these new devices.”

Meanwhile, federal regulators are looking into the safety of hoverboards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating 17 hoverboard-related fires in 13 states, and there were 70 reports of emergency room visits due to falls and collisions.

“I think that anyone that buys one of those things is out of their mind,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “We live in an extraordinarily crowded city. We have a hard enough time walking down the street, let alone hovering down.”

Peralta explained that nothing in his bill “constricts the ability of state or municipal governments to address the operational or safety concerns relative to these devices; quite conversely, it allows these entities to address these issues outside of the blanket regulatory scheme that is applicably to motor vehicles and electric personal assistive mobility devices.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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