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Teens, Ebikes, & No Drivers Licenses: A Safety Discussion

Updated: May 16

Ebike popularity is surging, especially among teens. But with ebikes hitting speeds of 20 to 28 mph and little to no licensing requirements, is it safe for teenagers to drive ebikes?

 

Teenage girls riding ebikes wearing helmets

Ebikes – short for electric bikes – are motorized bicycles with rechargeable batteries. They’re much heavier and faster than regular bikes, which can mean more severe injuries when accidents occur.


How ebikes got so popular

In the past four years, ebike sales have nearly quadrupled, and the ebike market is expected to grow 15% per year between 2023 and 2030*.


Fueling the rising popularity of ebikes are

  • rising gas price

  • environmental concerns

  • the convenience of parking and storing them

  • more affordable ebikes coming on the market

  • they’re super fun to drive


But teenagers have added reasons to love them: Most states have no age requirements and don’t require driver's licenses. Meaning teenagers can just jump on an ebike and go.


Why aren’t ebike licenses required for teens?

Most states classify electric bikes as bicycles rather than motor vehicles since they’re slower than traditional motorcycles and scooters. And since bicycles are exempt from driver’s licenses, ebikes are too. Many states are hesitant to change this designation because ebikes are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional vehicles, and ebike use helps reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.


Several states are considering requirements restricting teenage ebike use, including operator licenses and age minimums. But so far, only a handful of states have enacted such legislation.


Can unlicensed teens safely operate ebikes?

It depends on the teenager. It also depends upon how much driving education they’ve had.


Think back to when you first got your driver's license: Before you took a driver's ed course or studied for your driving test, did you know how to be a safe driver? Teens who have never heard the rules of the road and basic ebike safety are unlikely to be safe ebike drivers simply because they don’t know how. They haven’t learned it yet!


Meanwhile, teens who have learned critical traffic laws and how to be attentive, aware, and courteous ebikers are far more likely to be safe on their ebikes because they’ve learned how to keep themselves and others safe, and how to avoid accidents.


How to educate teens about safe ebike driving

Exposing teenagers to why ebikes are more dangerous than regular bikes, how much more dangerous they are, and what they can do to mitigate these dangers, can help turn teens into safer ebikers.



Teenage ebikers should learn

  • traffic laws

  • what traffic lights, road signs, and markings mean

  • right-of-way rules

  • recommended ebike maintenance

  • about safety gear and clothing

  • how to be an alert and aware driver

  • what to do if an accident does occur


Online ebike safety courses

PedalAce’s online ebike safety course teaches all this and more with 90 minutes of online video instruction, plus tests to drive all the knowledge home. Online courses offer flexibility - your teen can take it at their own pace and when it fits into their schedule.


In-person ebike safety courses

In-person classes held in your community are another great option. These types of classes are popping up in areas with high ebike use among local teens and often offer hands-on learning in a group setting.


School mandated ebike safety courses

In some areas, school districts are supporting ebike safety by requiring students to complete a safety course in order to bring their bikes onto school property.




Sources

Business Insider, “The incredible, Earth-saving electric bike is having a moment,” May 24, 2023.  https://www.businessinsider.com/electric-bikes-popularity-sustainability-evs-2023-4 


Grandview Research, “U.S. E-bike Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report … 2023 - 2030.” https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/us-e-bike-market-report 





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