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Drunk Segway Driver Avoids DUI in Minnesota

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Segway riders in Dublin

Medina, Minnesota’s Acting Police Chief, Sgt.  Jason Nelson, says his department will lobby that state’s legislature to put the Segway into a vehicle classification after a man got away with the latest of three separate charges of drunk driving on a Segway on Tuesday, as Abby Simons reports for the Star Tribune.

Simons writes that the man:

[Mark] Greenman, 48, a Minneapolis employment attorney, was vindicated again Tuesday when the Minnesota Court of Appeals backed his argument that the Segway does not meet the definition of a motor vehicle under state drunken-driving laws.

The 2-1 ruling is Greenman’s third Segway-related victory against the city of Medina. In the most recent case, the city had appealed a Hennepin County judge’s dismissal of the drunken-driving charge because Greenman was not using the scooter for medical purposes — an argument the Appeals Court rejected.

Sgt. Nelson told Simons that he and Medina’s city attorney Steven Tallen have not yet decided whether to ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear the case. The Segway, which reaches a top speed of about 12 miles per hour, falls under regulations applying to pedestrians because it is mostly used on sidewalks, bike paths, and in buildings, according to the Appeals Court’s ruling, Simons writes.

UPI.com writes that the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the appellate court said the battery-powered, self-balancing, two-wheeled personal transit machine is not a motor vehicle.

Even after having a few beers at an Inn Kahoots bar pool tournament last February, Greenman knew it was legal to ride the Segway, because he had beaten an identical charge two years before, Simons writes.

The Appeals Court cited the case of James A. Brown, charged in July 2009 with third-degree driving while impaired for operating a motorized scooter on the sidewalks of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, while drunk, a charge that was dismissed. The Appeals Court upheld that decision, ruling that the scooter did not fall under the definition of a motor vehicle, Simons writes. Judge Margaret Chutich wrote that the same applies for the Segway.

Simons writes:

Appeals Court Judge Roger Klaphake disagreed, writing in his dissent that the language of the state’s DWI codes includes self-propelled vehicles or vehicles ‘not moved solely by human power.’ Because of that, he reasoned, a Segway falls under the definition of a motor vehicle.

Operators of vehicles other than cars and trucks have, however, been convicted of drunk driving, Simons points out. In 2009, Dennis Leroy Anderson pleaded guilty to drunk driving after being arrested riding a motorized recliner chair; and in June 2012, Joel K. Bruss pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor for driving a Zamboni in an ice arena while intoxicated, Simons notes. Operators of driving lawn mowers have been charged with drunk driving too.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says on its website that Segways are regulated under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as a “consumer product” and not by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most states, GHSA writes, have regulations designating where people can ride Segways, and the minimum age of riders. In a January 2013 list of states and their laws, GHSA says that Segways are permitted in Colorado. In fact, there is at least one company offering Segway tours in Colorado: http://www.coloradosegwaytours.com/.

Image by Sean MacEntee.

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