Los Angeles has obtained its first misdemeanor conviction for DUI while riding a Bird scooter in West Los Angeles. 28-year-old Nicholas Kauffroath was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $550 fine after hitting a pedestrian while operating a Bird scooter while under the influence.
Kauffroath knocked a pedestrian to the ground and rode away on the scooter to a nearby apartment building without stopping to assist. When law enforcement found Kauffroath, his blood-alcohol level was 0.279 - more than three times the legal limit. Kauffroath pleaded no contest to one count of hit-and-run and one count of operating motorized scooter while intoxicated.
Electric scooter rental services Bird and Lime are largely responsible for the influx of scooters seen around the Los Angeles area in the last year. Riders can use the companies' apps to locate a nearby scooter, and scan a code on the handlebars to gain access. The scooters cost $1 to rent and 15 cents per minute to ride. All users are required to confirm they will not ride while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication before they can rent a scooter.
The scooters have garnered a mixed response from Los Angelinos. Beverly Hills has banned them outright for six months, and Venice, home of Bird headquarters, has voted to cap the number of scooters on city streets while officials draft long-term regulations. Fans of the scooters praise them as a cost-effective and greener alternative to driving.
Regardless of public sentiment, Kauffroath's conviction confirms that California's laws against operating a vehicle while impaired definitively apply to electric scooters. While these laws are most commonly used in connection with drivers, they also apply to motorcycles, bicycles, and motorized scooters.
The LAPD has started tracking scooter collisions between scooter riders, drivers, and pedestrians, similar to how bicycle crashes are documented. Officers have reported a consistently rising number of collisions since Bird and Lime have spread to more Los Angeles neighborhoods in recent months.
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