It’s a Bird, It’s a Scooter, It’s an Overnight Sensation . . . But Is It Legal?

(Author’s note: The last section of this post was added after its initial publication.)

Electric scooters have recently appeared overnight in cities across North Carolina. The scooters, most of which are owned by the Bird Rides company, have been deposited without advance announcement in downtown areas. Would-be riders download an app that allows them to scan a code on the scooter that unlocks it. The scooter can then be ridden for $1 start-up charge plus 15 cents per minute. The app instructs users to ride in bike lanes where available and to avoid pedestrians on the sidewalk. It also states that traffic regulations prohibit riding on sidewalks, in public parking structures, without a helmet, and without a valid driver’s license. Is all of that correct? And can these scooters lawfully be operated on North Carolina streets?

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Obtaining and Admitting Evidence from a Vehicle’s Black Box

The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States increased in by 5.6 percent from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, 37,461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roadways, compared to 35,485 the previous year. North Carolina’s fatality figures followed the national trend, with fatalities increasing from 1,379 in 2015 to 1,450 in 2016, a 5.1 percent increase. Many such fatalities result in criminal vehicular homicide charges, which number in the hundreds each year in North Carolina alone.

Investigators and prosecutors in such cases are increasingly relying upon the vehicle itself to tell the story of what happened during and just before the crash. Many vehicles driven today (and nearly all manufactured in the past five years) are equipped with an Event Data Recorder (EDR) installed by the manufacturer. An EDR, often referred to as a car’s black box, contains data related to various aspects of the car’s operation seconds before a crash, including its speed, whether the brakes were applied, and the position of its gas pedal. This kind of evidence can play a central role in the State’s attempt to show culpably negligent driving. But how may the State lawfully obtain EDR information? And, once obtained, how may it be introduced into evidence?

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Scope of Consent to Search a Vehicle

Yesterday, I wrote about a pair of recent cases about weaving within a lane of travel. Today, I want to mention another pair of recent cases related to automobiles. Last month, the court of appeals decided, on the same day, two cases that address the scope of a suspect’s consent to search a vehicle. In … Read more

What’s a Vehicle?

James Heselden, the owner of the company that makes the Segway personal transporter, died recently after driving his Segway off a cliff. It appears to have been a tragic accident, and the accounts I’ve read suggest that Heselden was an interesting person and a remarkable philanthropist. Thinking about Segways, though, reminded me that I’ve been … Read more