Fact Check

New Hoverboard Law

A new law to regulate the use of "hoverboards" will go into effect in California on 1 January 2016.

Published Dec. 27, 2015

A new law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to ride a hoverboard.
What's True

California has passed a law which requires hoverboard users to be at least 16 years old.

What's False

The law affects all hoverboard riders.

Despite its tendency to burst into flames and the fact that it doesn't actually hover, the self-balancing 2-wheel scooter (or "hoverboard") was the "must have" Christmas gift in 2015. Shortly after the presents were unwrapped, however, a rumor about the device's legality started circulating around Twitter.

An image purportedly showing a news report about a "new motorized board law" started going viral on 26 December 2015. While we couldn't uncover the corresponding video, the image appears to be authentic and refers to California Assembly Bill No. 604:

This bill would define the term “electrically motorized board.” The bill would prohibit the operation of an electrically motorized board upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. The bill would require the operator of an electrically motorized board to wear a helmet while operating an electrically motorized board upon a highway, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trail. The bill would require an operator to be at least 16 years of age in order to operate an electrically motorized board. The bill would also require electrically motorized boards to be equipped with safety equipment, as specified, and restrict the operation speed of electrically motorized boards. Because a violation of these provisions would be punishable as an infraction, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

When California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill in October 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the new law actually reversed a ban and made electric skateboards and hoverboards legal:

Electric skateboarders rejoice: you can soon ride in California in all legality.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday that allows the use of motorized wheeled devices, aimed at electric skateboards but which could be extended to other new contraptions, anywhere bicycles are allowed to go. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, reverses a 1977 ban intended to keep noisy, stinky, gas-powered skateboards off the streets.

The new law is a boon to local makers of electric skateboards, including Boosted Boards and Intuitive Motion. “We are grateful that the Governor recognized the need to allow for this technology,” said Brad Phillipi, chief financial officer of Intuitive Motion.

While it's true that California has passed a new law restricting the use of hoverboards to people over the age of 16, this is not a national law. Several cities are still figuring out how to classify hoverboards, and if new laws are required to regulate their use:

The motorized self-balancing scooters are illegal, according to the New York City Police Department and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

The gadgets are considered "electric personal assistive mobility devices."

"They are not considered motor vehicles so they cannot be registered," a DMV spokeswoman told CNNMoney. "According to state law, a first violation shall result in no fine. A second or subsequent violation shall result in a civil fine not to exceed $50."

As the laws vary from state to state, if you received a hoverboard for Christmas, you should probably read up on your local laws to see if riding the device in public is illegal.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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