We've all seen the latest craze to hit our streets, the black and green Lime electric scooters. Whether you're for or against them zooming along our footpaths, cycle lanes and streets you may have wondered: can you be charged for riding one of these scooters while under the influence of alcohol? Perhaps especially relevant as we head into the merry season! And the answer is ...
No, you cannot be charged with drunk driving in relation to driving a Lime electric scooter.
When someone is charged with drunk driving, the basis of the charge is that they drove a motor vehicle, on a road, while the proportion of alcohol in their breath or blood exceeded the legal limit.
When it comes to those rather zippy lime scooters, the key is whether a Lime scooter (or any electric scooter) falls within the classification of a "motor vehicle" under the Land Transport Act 1998.
Under section 168A(2) of the Land Transport Act the NZ Transport agency can declare that a particular type of vehicle does not fall within the definition of a "motor vehicle" and ahead of the introduction of Lime scooters that's exactly what the NZ Transport agency has done.
By notice dated 18th September 2018 NZ Transport have declared that an electric scooter is not a motor vehicle so long as it is: comprised primarily of a footboard, two or three wheels and a long steering handle, with wheels no bigger than 355mm in diameter and which has a motor with a maximum power output that does not exceed 300 Watts. A Lime electric scooter's motor is 250 watts, so it is not classified as a motor vehicle.
This means you cannot be charged for drunk driving in relation to a Lime electric scooter.
But as is the case with drunk driving of a car, the key issue is not whether it's against the law or whether you're caught. The key issue is safety, not just yours but for the other road users and pedestrians out there who might encounter you while your ability to ride or drive has been affected by alcohol.
Having ridden one of the Lime scooters recently (purely in the name of research!) it wouldn't take a lot for a bump in the road or footpath to send you flying so we strongly advise against drunk lime-ing!