San Diego plans to crack down on local Segway tour operators following a $1.7-million injury settlement in June and another lawsuit filed last spring claiming a protruding sidewalk caused the death of a Segway rider two years ago. An ordinance proposed by city officials would require Segway tour companies to apply for special permits, follow safety procedures and obtain commercial liability insurance of at least $2-million per case and $4-million per year.
The ordinance, which the City Council budget committee is scheduled to discuss at its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, aims to shrink the number of injury crashes and limit the city's vulnerability to large payouts when injuries occur. In the case that led to the $1.7-million settlement, the tour company that rented out the Segway didn't contribute to the payout because it didn't have liability insurance and the company's owner had limited assets.
Segways, which were invented in 2002, are two-wheeled motorized vehicles that carry one person standing upright. Segway is the name of the leading company in the industry. In order to make sure the city's new law would also apply to competitors, it refers to the vehicles as "electronic assistive personal mobility devices."The new law would not apply to the electric scooters that have become increasingly popular in San Diego this year, according to the Union-Tribune. City officials are exploring separate legislation for those devices.
The ordinance would require Segway tour companies to obtain a special permit requiring them to have adequate insurance and follow new safety procedures. Those safety procedures would include prohibiting Segway use by intoxicated people, requiring users under 18 to be accompanied by an adult, requiring tour guides to have a driver's license and conducting on-site training for all riders before tours. Companies would have to pay a $48 annual fee for a permit.
The new legislation was prompted by a $1.7-million payout by the city to a woman who suffered a shattered pelvis in a Segway crash on a La Jolla street three years ago. The settlement includes $1.5-million for Regina Capobianco, who was injured when she drove a Segway over a large area of damaged street on Camino de la Costa at Winamar Avenue in July 2015, and $200,000 for her husband, Christopher Capobianco, because her injuries damaged their marriage.
A few months before the city settled that case in June, the family of Jeff Hassett filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city blaming a protruding section of sidewalk in Old Town for his eventual death. The suit, filed by Hassett's four siblings, claims Hassett struck a 3-inch to 4-inch concrete stub in the sidewalk, created by a light pole removal on Taylor Street near Congress Street, while riding a Segway in March 2016. Hassett suffered broken ribs, a toe injury that required amputation and damage to an internal heart defibrillator. The heart issue and an infection eventually caused his death in May 2016.
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