Court: Drunk driving laws not applicable to Segway

In a state where 1 of every 7 people has a drunk driving conviction, a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision today provides some important guidance — a Segway is not a motor vehicle.

The judges today upheld the dismissal of DWI charges against Mark Greenman, who was cited in Medina last February. He was charged with third-degree DWI (driving under the influence of alcohol), driving with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, and failure to operate a personal assistive mobility device with due care.

Greenman challenged the first two charges, arguing that a Segway is not a motor vehicle, and he had good cause to because he’d been charged with drunk driving a Segway before and a court dismissed the charge. In that earlier case, the district court said that Greenman was acting as a pedestrian while on the Segway.

In today’s ruling, the Court of Appeals cited an earlier case in which a person in a wheelchair was ruled to be a pedestrian:

The DWI statutes do not define a “personal assistive mobility device,” but that term is defined in the traffic-regulations chapter as “a self-balancing device with two nontandem wheels, designed to transport not more than one person, and operated by an electric propulsion system that limits the maximum speed of the device to 15 miles per hour.”

A Segway meets this definition because it is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered device designed for use in places a car or bicycle cannot go, including in buildings. Just like Brown’s scooter, the Segway is an “electric personal assistive mobility device” that is specifically excluded from chapter 169’s definition of “motor vehicle.”

But in a dissent, Judge Roger Klaphake said the court got it wrong, and that the Segway is — unlike, say, a bicycle — a vehicle:

This statutory language is clear; it encompasses the Segway that was driven by respondent. The operative language includes “every vehicle that is self-propelled,” and excludes only “vehicle[s] moved solely by human power.” Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 15. The references apply to “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.” Minn. Stat. § 169.011, subd. 92. Because a Segway is a self-propelled vehicle or “device” that is not moved solely by human power and by which respondent could be transported upon a highway, a Segway falls within the definition of “motor vehicle” under the impaired driving code.

Here’s the full decision.