There's a possible loophole in the law when it comes to riding scooters while drunk

With electric scooters becoming a popular form of alternative transportation around the Triangle, a Raleigh defense attorney and former prosecutor is wondering out loud about the implications of driving them while drunk.

Steven Saad, a former assistant Wake County district attorney wrote a blog on the subject -- and discovered a grey area in the law.

We asked numerous people on the streets, including some scooter riders, if they had considered whether you can be charged for driving while impaired on a scooter.

Most said they didn't know.

But Saad noted that several people have already been charged with driving a scooter drunk in Wake County.

"A scooter still is considered a vehicle. You don't have to be specifically in a car to get a DWI if you are operating it on one of public streets or highways," he told ABC11.

Saad said with very few exceptions for motorized handicapped vehicles, drivers of any motorized vehicle including electric scooters are covered by the DWI law.

But what if the rider is not on a public street or roadway?

"I think it's a huge grey area as to whether you're operating a scooter while impaired under North Carolina law if you're not on the road," Saad said.

If you ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk in Raleigh, you are in violation of a city ordinance against motorized vehicles on sidewalks.

But the citation carries only a $50 dollar fine and no insurance or driver's license points.

That pales in comparison to the fines, attorney's fees, license and insurance points you can rack up with at DWI.

That is concerning to some as scooters grow in popularity especially in areas like downtown Raleigh and Hillsborough Street near the NC State campus where there are lots of bars and restaurants.

"The implication of sidewalk versus street is so different. Legally they have to ride the scooters on the street. But there is a loophole with that I think should be addressed," said NCSU student Molly Pruett.

"The decision-making process to get on a vehicle and endanger other people is the same whether you're on a sidewalk or on the road. So it seems like a loophole that should be closed," said Brian Reich, who teaches at NCSU.

But some think that isn't likely to happen unless drunk driving scooters on the sidewalk becomes a major problem.
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