Are theme parks responsible to keep people safe from scooters?

January 30, 2019, 1:59 PM · Show of hands — who here has been hit by an electric scooter in a theme park?

That's me, raising my hand. Like many such incidents, mine happened in Epcot, and yes, the person driving the scooter was holding a beer in one hand as they steered into me with the other. (Food & Wine Fest, represent!) The collision knocked me to the ground, cut my ankle... and hurt like heck.

Fortunately, I was able to hobble next door to the Beach Club, where I plopped myself onto a couch in the air-conditioned lobby until I felt better, and, to be honest, finished and posted the story I was at the park to write. Ultimately? No harm, no foul.

But that's not always the result when heavy ECVs crash into pedestrians, who often don't see the motor vehicles coming. The Orlando Sentinel this week detailed the case of a Walt Disney World annual passholder who said that she needed hip surgery following a collision with an ECV, also at Epcot. She's now seeking more than $15,000 in damages... from Disney.

Suing Disney for a scooter accident seems to me a bit like suing the government responsible for a road after a car crash. Perhaps in rare cases of extreme negligence in design or maintenance that might be appropriate, but it's not like the scooter driver hit a pothole in World Showcase that sent him or her careening into the plaintiff.

At least, this lawsuit isn't claiming that. It is, however, suggesting that Disney ought to create dedicated lanes for ECVs, instead. (As if the pathways in Disney's theme parks weren't crowded enough.)

Regardless of what you think about Disney's role in all this, ECV drivers absolutely ought to be held responsible for any injuries caused in collisions — just as automobile drivers are in a car wreck. ECVs have been around for years, but with electric scooters such as Lime and Bird taking over street corners in cities across the country, conflicts between scooter drivers and pedestrians are increasing. That's driving a legal debate over scooter drivers' responsibility in accidents.

Do states need to pass laws requiring ECV and other scooter drivers to carry insurance against injuries they might cause others? Right now, you can buy insurance when you rent an ECV to take into the parks, but many of those policies just cover the scooter — not the damage that you might cause with it.

Of course, not everyone driving a scooter is doing so for convenience. For many ECV drivers, a scooter provides their only opportunity for mobility. An insurance requirement would add to the cost of the disability that left these park guests needing an ECV. Is that right?

There's a lot to debate here. And indignantly suggesting scooter drivers ought to "be more responsible" isn't the answer. Accidents will happen, even if everyone works to minimize their probability.

But those who are injured through no fault of their own should not have to bear any financial expense from that. The risk of driving a scooter ought to be factored into the price of operating one, though in a way that does not prevent responsible drivers with disabilities from accessing the mobility that they need.

If lawmakers don't provide a solution here, we're just going to see more injured people hiring lawyers to ask the courts to find one.

Replies (31)

January 30, 2019 at 2:09 PM

From my experiences of the parks here in Orlando, strollers are far more of a hazard than the wheelchairs. Yes, they are heavier and could in certain circumstances cause injury, but in reality there isn't that many of them, and being alert and keeping out of their way is not difficult to do.

Now strollers are a whole new ball game .. !!

January 30, 2019 at 2:26 PM

Actually avoided it although my mother needed one on last trip (she'd been recovering from a knee replacement) and we had to be careful with it. Thankfully no incidents but as Mako points out, you see more folks hit with strollers.

January 30, 2019 at 3:00 PM

OK Now.... I do understand some folks need these ECV.... SOME - not all...

There are waaaaaay too many of these in Disney.

I remember old TPI friend Daniel Etchenbery (not sure if I got the last name correct), who had suffered some serious medical issues and had to have one of the these. So yes I do have empathy for those in need. But many folks want to use one, not need to use one..

Maybe Disney could have a EVC day for something. One day just for scooters. Just kidding, I do not need the ACLU coming after me...

Robert is correct, we see folks with a hamburger in one hand, drink in another while on a cell phone trying to circumnavigate the park full of visitors.

Or if you had a surgery of something.... Why not just wait until you can walk before taking the vacation... Or maybe take a beach vacation... I can go on and on..... Thanks for getting me all fired up Robert!!!

January 30, 2019 at 3:38 PM

"If lawmakers don't provide a solution here, we're just going to see more injured people hiring lawyers to ask the courts to find one."

Laws are not always the answer, especially when common sense is involved. The courts are perfectly equipped to determine negligence in all cases, and establishing some sort of insurance or licensing requirement will just add to an already overwhelmingly expensive bureaucracy. Increasing the cost for EVC rentals will just turn into a money-making scheme for rental companies that will bank any government-required insurance costs to self insure their rentals.

Being injured by an ECV is no different than being punched by a fellow guest, and should be litigated as a simple assault if the victim chooses to press charges. The person operating the ECV has the responsibility to do so in a safe and respectful manner. If they feel that the collision occurred as a result of a malfunction, they can attempt to pass on the liability to the renting company. If the rental company is Disney, then yes, the park may need to pay damages to the victim. However, establishing traffic patterns and ECV lanes in the park is an invitation for even more litigation ("I was driving my ECV in the marked lane when a child crossed into my line getting struck - Sue Disney for giving me right of way in the ECV lane, not me").

People need to have some common sense and courtesy, and own up when they have a fender bender with an ECV, not try to pawn off the incident on someone else with deeper pockets. If it's a "hit and run", and the victim is unable to identify the assailant, they should immediately alert the park, who would be able to use surveillance footage and Magic Band information to track down the perpetrator.

January 30, 2019 at 3:35 PM

On a semi related topic I can't be the only one that's noticed obesity is rampant among Disney's "fan community." I was at WDW during the marathon this year and found great irony that it seemed like most people who were wearing Run Disney stuff were literally obese.

January 30, 2019 at 4:21 PM

@the_man: You don't see nearly as many ECVs at Universal Orlando. Also, there was that South Park episode with the obese hordes driving ECVs around a Disney Park. So...I'm pretty sure quite a few people notice it. Oddly enough.....I rarely see ECVs anywhere but WDW.

January 30, 2019 at 4:29 PM

I don't see the need for laws on this either. Disney is at no fault and that case should not even be herd by the courts. He needs to sue the person driving that thing. This should be the same as any other vehicle you drive you hurt someone your responsible plain and simple.

January 30, 2019 at 4:50 PM

Disney ought to make it quite clear to the operator of the scooter that they--the operator--will be liable for any accidents or injuries they may cause. A reminder that their magic band is linked to the scooter, so Disney would be able to track them down mightn't be amiss either. This could all be done very tactfully and probably in a "Disney" way (maybe a "How To" video with Goofy learning to drive a ECV?) Currently, I'm sure Disney makes the renters sign a waiver, but making a bigger production of the responsibilities could be really effective.

I'm also imagining Epcot scooters which won't turn on until the operator has passed a breathalyzer test. :)

January 30, 2019 at 5:40 PM

So Robert, did the driver even stop and offer an apology? I've been whacked by many a stroller and 9 out of ten times I get a heartfelt apology. But its those few that just keep moving, or look at me like somehow it was my fault. At Amazon the PIT equipment inside the facility shuts down if it hits something and can only be restarted by an area manager (after a "what the hell happened" conversation with the operator). They should equip the ECV's the same way.

January 30, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Nope.

January 30, 2019 at 6:10 PM

We went to Universal Studios in Orlando at the beginning of January. We had 4 day passes, and by the 3rd day, due to some health reasons I had to rent a wheelchair. I had never driven an electric one, so it wasn't even an option in my mind. My husband pushed me through the VERY heavy crowds. I was amazed at the people that just ran in front of me. We always pulled over to eat, drink...whatever. I sure sidn't want to be in the thing! I think responsibility lies with both the driver and other patrons as well. We only had those days to go on vacation. There was no other option...and after that day I was completely done. We didn't go back for our 4th?

January 30, 2019 at 6:14 PM

The law is different in all countries (..states).
Equals : Difficult to say something in general.
There exist concious drivers, intoxicated drivers and complete aggressive hooligans, on the steer of every type of vehicle, and in whatever class of society.
Although, fact is that whatever law, is read and played (legally) in a different way when the damage is on public territory vs. private grounds.

January 30, 2019 at 6:53 PM

The ECV overload is mostly thanks to a well meaning law- the ADA- allowing for these personal scooters for those who truly need them. Instead, the majority of guests using ECVs in theme parks have no eligible disability and use them for convenience. Many are using rentals obtained outside of the theme park and have no idea how to operate them, crashing into gates and walls in ride queues as well as on guests- often their own traveling companions. They are also a safety hazard for non-obvious reasons since they're too heavy to move out of the way in case of a fire. Contrary to urban myth perpetuated in some comments seen here, Disney is not watching all these guests through surveillance nor can they necessarily be "tracked down" via MagicBands- most of these hit and runs are like any other such incident anywhere and based on witnesses, not footage.
Cast Members get hit by guests who can't operate these ECVs often and also have to deal with the ones who use them for wheelchair access to attractions despite the ECV user having no actual disability- taking that Cast Member away from the truly disabled guests who really need that assistance.I know I'm not the only one who routinely was run over by ECVs while working the theme parks or had to strain to move abandoned ECVs guests leave parked incorrectly both inside attractions and in random areas around the theme parks. Personal scooters are allowed to comply with ADA- and since no one questions whether a guest really needs an ECV there are many taking advantage and causing this on-going mess.

January 30, 2019 at 11:09 PM

While everyone is right that the driver of course bears most responsibility, chances are Disney did rent the scooter to them. Meaning they have some amount of burden for giving it to someone who may not have been capable or even needed it (and I don't believe ADA requires they provide them, they're just a service they offer). If they're just going to give them to anyone who asks, then they're partly responsible. And the renters signing a waiver doesn't absolve Disney either

And much like the handicap passes being abused, so are these scooters. Too many of them, too many people who don't need them.

January 30, 2019 at 11:51 PM

How about just banning the ECVs in the parks? I can remember when people who had mobility issues used wheelchairs to get around. They either propelled themselves or they had a friend or family member pushing them. I don't remember trying to dodge the wheelchairs like I do the ECVs now. Of course the parks weren't nearly as crowded as they are now.

Disney and eventually Universal are going to have to put size limits on the strollers and ECVs. If things keep going the way that they are, I expect to see brush guards on the doggone things pretty soon.

January 31, 2019 at 5:30 AM

For the last few years I need a ECV to get around. It was with huge hesitation and pain in my hart but otherwise I wouldn't be able to visit the parks (for a max of 3 hours a day).
I remember seeing theme park top 10 lists of what people hate most about guests in theme parks and one of them was people standing still in the middle of the street all at once. The other one is big, loud groups of teenagers. Both of these guests also don't mix with ECV's. There is no brake on the thing so it takes a bit to stop. Also I got run over by a group of Brazilian teenage girls and that is where I ran over one of the girls foot. She clearly didn't care and moved with the group swiftly out of my sight.

All these things can be (for a part) resolved if a park isn't over crowded. It's one of the many reasons I don't visit WDW anymore. I'm a nervous wreak driving trough those crowds who are seemingly all alone there and move in no regard of their surroundings. Universal Studio's Orlando is great to move in except for the Wizarding World but I found out I got around nicely an hour before closing). I also don't visit on holidays and weekends.
Sure, if a theme park is clearly overcrowded hold the park responsible. Don't rent ECV's to people who never used them (hard to do but I would be prepared to show a handicap parking card and a medical note from my doctors). And if a guest clearly can't handle a vehicle responsibly (just like guest who can't handle alcoholic drinks responsibly) have security take them out and talk to them (or whatever).

January 31, 2019 at 6:33 AM

No

January 31, 2019 at 6:57 AM

I am handicap but to the standard person I look completely normal so when I get a scooter I know people think I’m faking it but man if they only knew the pain I have daily and how many surgeries I’ve had and I’m in my early 30s. When you go into the park you will notice how rude some guests become to people. I kept screaming like I’m coming up or on their side since the horn on the scooter is terrible. My first trip to WDW I was so careful on coming close to guests yet they didn’t care to the point I had a huge swollen broken looking ankle because of the idiots walking in front of me. I have run over someone’s foot but this guy was on his phone walking sideways and ignoring everyone around him including my yelling to warn him. Unfortunately there are a lot of people that think walking/cutting in front of a ecv is safe and it’s not we don’t have breaks. I am a cautious driver I don’t drink or do stuff when scooting for that reason. Sometimes it’s the person not on the scooter does it. (I do have a pic of my weird ankle that looked broken)

January 31, 2019 at 9:24 AM

"Contrary to urban myth perpetuated in some comments seen here, Disney is not watching all these guests through surveillance nor can they necessarily be "tracked down" via MagicBands- most of these hit and runs are like any other such incident anywhere and based on witnesses, not footage."

Perhaps you have some inside information, but I have a hard time believing that Disney does not have cameras covering every square inch of their theme parks. Is Disney following and tracking people around the parks, probably not, but if an incident occurs in a park, Disney most certainly has video footage of the incident that could be used to determine fault and negligence in a court of law. While I don't think Disney can actively track guests around the parks via Magic Band (the ominous Big Brother scenario of overseers watching little dots moving around maps shown on monitors suggested when the system was first rolled out), they can absolutely combine video footage with active Magic Band interaction throughout the parks (everywhere a guest taps a Mickey Head) or where active RFID readers are prompting feedback from Magic Bands (like on-ride photo pass systems). That means that if a "hit and run" occurs near Pooh, and the same ECV operator is seen tapping into 7DMT minutes later on video, Disney can put 2 and 2 together and pull the FP+ logs to positively identify the perpetrator. Obviously, such an investigation would only occur if the victim were to report the incident and request assistance in pursuing an unidentified suspect. It's not like Disney is watching for incidents (nor do I think they should), but they have the technology to ensure victims can identify their assailant when needed.

I don't think it matters whether a guest "needs" an ECV or not, or whether they appear ambulatory or not. The bottom line is that if you choose to operate an ECV in the parks (or anywhere else in the world for that matter), regardless of your experience level or disability (or lack thereof), you are responsible for the devices' operation. Whether someone jumps in front of you or you go on a mad rampage through a group of path-clogging teenagers, you're responsible for the operation of the ECV, and can be held liable for damages caused by the device. It's no different than riding a segway, motorized scooter, bicycle, hoverboard, or other motorized device on a city sidewalk. You MUST yield to pedestrians, who typically have the right of way in almost ALL situations.

January 31, 2019 at 11:51 AM


I have the best Idea - Autonomous Driving ECV...

This will fix the issue.

January 31, 2019 at 12:15 PM

I think it's a balancing act. If Disney is going to let these large, heavy, vehicles into their parks and onto their property then the arguement could be made that Disney is responsible for making sure they are safety operated. And the fact that the ADA requires handicap access complicates things further. Maybe it's time to insist that only Disney ECV's are permitted in the parks and that a series of waivers/rules of operation be on file before keys are released. I'm particularly concerned about the consumption of alcohol while operating an ECV. At what point would the Orange County Sheriff's department consider it a DWI/DUI?

I understand completely that having less mobility doesn't mean a visitor miss the parks. We're long past the days when a disability equalled someone being homebound for the rest of their life. But these ECV's can and now have caused serious harm to other people. If I'm run over in a theme park and required surgery to fix the damage, then I'm darned well going to want to be compensated for my pain, suffering and medical bills. I don't think that's unreasonable.

The solution is probably going to have to be more enforcement from Disney/Universal about what ECV's are allowed in, how they are operated and how responsibility for the actions of the ECV fall between the park and the operator. Without running afoul of ADA.

I don't even the Disney legal team this one but I am interested in seeing how it ends up.

January 31, 2019 at 12:49 PM

"If Disney is going to let these large, heavy, vehicles into their parks and onto their property then the arguement could be made that Disney is responsible for making sure they are safety operated."

ADA doesn't give Disney that option. If a person needs an ECV to get around, Disney cannot deny them access because they require a motorized mobility device. Limiting or controlling access to the parks in any substantial way (like requiring a driving test, signing a waiver, or paying a fee) would be illegal under the ADA.

"Maybe it's time to insist that only Disney ECV's are permitted in the parks and that a series of waivers/rules of operation be on file before keys are released."

That doesn't work either. What if someone has a custom ECV that caters specifically to their disability? There's no way Disney is going to carry every imaginable configuration of an ECV at every park and resort. Disney would run afoul of the ADA if they forced guests who own their ECVs to pay to rent a Disney-owned ECV.

"If I'm run over in a theme park and required surgery to fix the damage, then I'm darned well going to want to be compensated for my pain, suffering and medical bills. I don't think that's unreasonable."

It's very simple - Seek restitution from the OPERATOR of the ECV (i.e. the person driving), not the park. If you are injured in an automobile collision, you don't sue the car manufacturer or the entity maintaining the road (as Robert noted), you sue the DRIVER. The car manufacturer is not responsible unless there's a malfunction traceable to the vehicle's design.
The government isn't responsible unless there's a flaw in the road that is a direct cause of the collision. Your beef is with the other driver (or yourself if you caused the collision), and that's how 99.99% of auto injury cases are handled.

There's absolutely no difference here if you're injured by an ECV. Disney did not hit you, even if they rented the scooter. Unless there's some design flaw with the sidewalks or pathway design, the park itself cannot be held responsible. The scooter manufacturer (or company/person maintaining the scooter) would only be responsible in cases of malfunction. Again, your beef is with the driver/operator (or yourself, if you caused the collision), and any incident should be handled similarly to an auto collision. Simply allowing ECVs on property (requirement under ADA) does not make Disney responsible. In fact, requiring any sort of waiver or transfer of liability would instead make Disney a party to any lawsuit.

What we need is some common sense here, and a few high profile cases of ECV drivers paying big bucks to settle injury claims. Trying to legislate or complicate this issue will not change the simple role of responsibility and respect needed from people who operate ECVs through crowded theme parks.

January 31, 2019 at 1:29 PM

When I went to my state fair last year, and I go almost every year, I could not believe all the electric scooters compared to years past. Part of the problem was the size of the state fair gronds, and part of the problem was they were available for rent I believe for the first time. I do sympathize with people that have trouble walking long distances because that includes members of my family, but it also bothers and scares me that so many people are using electric scooters that don’t know how to operate them or are simply being careless and inconsiderate. I think the solution is people truly need an electronic wheelchair or electric scooter have to bring their own. The only chairs available for rent should be old fashioned wheelchairs that have to be pushed or wheeled by hand.

January 31, 2019 at 2:06 PM

Walt Disney World Resort does not have surveillance cameras set up watching guests at their theme parks nor are they set up to track guests through MagicBand. If we have to find a lost guest, we do not have these options. If someone has an incident outdoors at a theme park or Disney Springs, we do not usually have footage. If we find a lost MagicBand it is treated much like a lost cell phone or credit card and if the printed info inside the MagicBand indicates it is linked to a Resort Hotel, we contact that Resort- we can't track your lost child. The current lawsuit involving guests and an ECV at Epcot has no video footage. The earlier case last year at Hollywood Studios occurred with a guest slamming another guest into a register and counter inside a merchandise location, so that did have still shots and Cast Member witnesses on the scene. Neither case involved a scooter rented to a guest by Disney, by the way.

January 31, 2019 at 2:37 PM

I have a hard time believing you Dave, but will defer to your insider knowledge. WDW is a business, and I would expect them to have cameras in place to protect their business and to keep guests safe, so to say that they don't have some level of "eye in the sky" technology in place seems very far fetched.

I will say that if you enter the MagicBand ID printed on the back of the device into MDE, it will provide the account and name of the person it is registered to (assuming it's been registered, which it would have to be if it was used to enter the park). If a MagicBand was found, it should be pretty easy for Disney to provide the identity of the owner, and the device is linked to that person's biometric data to validate their admissions. When a person taps their MagicBand at a FP+ entrance, the display on the CM side of the podium shows the name of the person that just tapped, so while it may take some effort to retrieve it, Disney has that information, and it could be subpoenaed if needed as proof in a court of law.

January 31, 2019 at 3:48 PM

There are cameras aimed at points of sale and there are safety related cameras inside some attractions, and some operating participants (including my locations) have their own systems. Overall, if something occurs outdoors there is likely no footage. Day guests don't usually have MagicBands- Resort Guests, Passholders and Cast Members do. Not Westworld, not watching and tracking everyone. Actual Cast Members own eyes are the primary line of defense. As for the incident that this topic is actually about, there's no footage of the ECV accident though it is documented the old school way and the Passholder's lawsuit isn't about tracking or surveillance. The plaintiff is claiming that Disney should have specific lanes for ECVs due to their large number at theme parks and that ECV operators should have knowledge of how to operate them.

January 31, 2019 at 4:25 PM

Theme parks purposely don't have camera's in the parks because they purposely don't want things on video. Think about it, if there is some sort of accident would you want a tape of it to be in court or in the media? This is especially applicable to rides/food because the lawyers will read the operating guide and if any employee makes any slight (and I mean slight) little deviance from it in any way they will pounce all over it and say the park was negligent by not operating properly. Also if there is a fight or brawl do you really think the park wants footage of it so it can be all over the news?

The one exception is employee theft, companies do not shy away from pointing cameras on people that handle money.

February 1, 2019 at 11:59 AM

At the very least they should have governors on them, limiting their speed to a fast walk. No reason to have them scooting around at 'ramming speed" !!

February 1, 2019 at 4:16 PM

Living with a person confined to a wheelchair, and who uses an electric scooter for outdoor use, one huge problem at the parks are the able people who just ignore him and his vehicle, stepping in front of him and not being aware. He has not hit anyone, luckily, but I can recount nine separate instances at the park over two visits when someone just stepped in front of him as he traveled, and stopped to either take a picture or read their cellphone. Even if there were specified lanes, able people would walk in them, cross them without looking, etc -- and still blame the rider...

February 2, 2019 at 2:25 PM

Both of my parents require ECVs to navigate around the park. Because of that, I pay more attention to the ECVs (when I'm with them AND when I'm not), and I have witnessed numerous collisions over the years.

Some guests walk around the park while looking at their phones, oblivious to those around them. Some try to cut in front of the scooters, thinking they have precision brakes. Some just do not pay attention to anything, walking around with their head in the clouds. Or, worse of all, some people just suddenly STOP walking without any rhyme or reason. When any of the above scenarios happen, it is nearly impossible to stop the ECV in time.

While accidents occur, it is the responsibility of everyone to maintain awareness of their surroundings. The theme parks are very crowded. How many times have you shoulder butted someone walking through narrow areas? It happens all the time. When you add in an ECV, limited space, people not paying attention, crowds and the sweltering heat of a traditional theme park day, collisions are inevitable.

There are some segments of the guest population that go out of their way to aid those in ECVs. I've seen men, women and children run to a door to open it for a disabled person. Unfortunately, I've also seen men, women and children give a disgusted look to the same person.

Basically, what I'm saying is ECV accidents will happen in all circumstances, but if you pay attention to your surroundings you are less likely to be involved in one.

February 3, 2019 at 8:30 PM

@ Tim

The real problem is the overcrowding of the park, which is a safety issue regardless of strollers or ECVs. It might be easy to scapegoat a particular group of people that dont necessarily pertain to yourself and ban them. Not only is that discriminatory, but it does little to address the real problem of overcrowding, and would create very bad press for Disney and they are wise enough not to go there.

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