In the future vision of the time travel movie "back to the future II" from 1989, some technical innovations were predicted for the year 2015. In the film, for example, there are hovering skateboards, called "hoverboards". Unsurprisingly, this has not yet become a reality, but in fact devices called hoverboards have been sold for some time now. They correspond in their function mode however not completely to the film model.
"These are crimes." susanne kilian, specialist in traffic law
The principle is similar to the "segway," which has not become established as an everyday means of transportation, but is offered in almost every major city as a vehicle for special city tours. With an e-board, you are essentially standing on a motor-driven board with two wheels at the ends. In the middle is an axle that makes steering easier. Controlled exclusively by weight shifting and this created a feeling as if you were actually "floating" over the road. Speeds of more than 20 kilometers per hour can be reached, depending on the model. That’s where the problems start.
"The hoverboards have a motor and travel faster than six kilometers per hour. So they are no longer sports equipment," says susanne kilian, kitzingen specialist lawyer for traffic law. The hoverboards are instead by definition a motor vehicle and may therefore not be used on sidewalks, unlike skateboards and similar means of locomotion. And: for a vehicle you need a driver’s license. "There is the question: is it a one-lane or a two-lane vehicle? The wheels are too far apart to be considered a single-track vehicle. That’s why the moped license is not enough in this case," says kilian. In simplified terms, this means that an e-board is considered a car. "You are therefore only allowed to drive it with a car license," says kilian.
For most adults, that’s not much of an obstacle, but such high-tech toys are much more likely to strike a chord with children and young people, as a media markt store in wurzburg confirmed on inquiry. Most requests for the devices there would actually come from young people. High-quality models cost several hundred euros.
Since the prices were still higher when the e-boards were introduced, manufacturers were quickly found who brought significantly cheaper models onto the market. However, reports of overheating batteries, explosions and even house fires triggered by cheap variants quickly became more frequent. In the USA, a toddler died as a result of such an incident.
The legal problem chain of the hoverboards is with the driver’s license problem by far not yet concluded. As mentioned, they are considered cars, so it is actually mandatory to drive them on the road. "But that also means they need a license and insurance," says susanne kilian. But a road permit for a hoverboard is unrealistic: "it has no seat, no handlebars and no sensible brakes. "Where to put a license plate at all is still the least problem. Insurance for e-boards also simply does not exist. If, on the one hand, you have to drive on the road but are not allowed to do so because the vehicle is not registered, then there is only one option: private property. "It’s just a fun device for the home," says susanne kilian. The boards are not even allowed to be used on sports fields or the like: "this is public space."
However, many owners are apparently not aware of the complicated legal situation. Between february 2016 and april 2017, the lower franconia police headquarters reported 41 cases in which people were stopped by police with their hoverboards. This can lead to severe penalties, because it clearly means a violation of the compulsory insurance and motor vehicle tax laws, as if you were driving an uninsured car without a license plate. There’s a hefty fine for this and six points on the central traffic register. Who in addition no driver’s license possesses, that threatens even a prison sentence of one year. No trivial offense therefore. "These are criminal offences," says lawyer susanne kilian.
Only recently, the police in mainstockheim had picked up an unsuspecting 13-year-old with his e-board. If a child or teenager is caught with the hoverboard, parents can also get into trouble. "Young people under the age of 14 are not liable to prosecution. Then the question arises: did the parents violate their duty of supervision and must be liable?? It depends on the individual case, for example how young the child is. Ultimately, even the parents can theoretically lose their driver’s license," explains susanne kilian. With older young people the consequence could be that they are not allowed to make their driving license with 17 or 18 years for the time being.
Hard penalties for the use of the hoverboards, but the law currently offers no more appropriate classification of the high-tech gadgetry. "It just doesn’t fit anywhere. Everything that’s new is unclear for now," says susanne kilian. Even police officers often don’t know how to deal with the curious situation surrounding hoverboards, she says. "The bundesrat has already asked the federal government to create legal foundations here," says kilian. Similar to what has happened with segways or drones, she says. But nothing has happened so far. So for now, e-boards remain expensive fun with potentially even more expensive consequences. Whether this is sustainable?