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Until recently, e-scooters were not allowed to be used on the roads and fines plus penalty points could be levied on anyone using an e-scooter on the highway. The general election of 2019 started to change this with electric scooters seen as one of the solutions to our congested roads.
Coronavirus was the next factor to impact the introduction of e-scooters. The Government is looking into the use of e-scooters as a way for people to get to work whilst avoiding public transport during and after the pandemic. As part of this objective, it is running rental trials, initially in Teesside, with similar schemes in several other cities being anticipated. But there are issues which need to be addressed where injuries could occur to e-scooter riders, other road users and pedestrians.
The key issues for e-scooter riders:
- e-scooter users are potentially a new category of vulnerable road users, in that similar to cyclists, they do not have much protection should they be involved in an accident;
- e-scooter users are likely to have had no experience of riding such a vehicle, unlike cycles which many people have used from an early age. There is no test of competency before using an e-scooter, unlike other vehicles with motors, where a test usually needs to be taken before use;
- e-scooters generally have smaller wheels than cycles and even small potholes on the roads could cause serious issues;
- Motorists may not be aware of, or looking out for fast-moving e-scooter riders as they drive – many do not have indicators and the scooters could become unstable if driven with just one hand whilst the rider signals with the other.
For pedestrians and other road users:
- Whilst a bicycle is only 8-10kg, an e-scooter can weigh up to 50kg, and of course, they are allowed on cycle paths which are often indicated only by a white painted line down a pavement. The infrastructure isn’t necessarily there to handle the scooters and issues may arise. In terms of personal injury claims, being struck by an e-scooter could be a lot more serious than being hit by a cycle.
- In addition of course, if rented, care needs to be taken as to where e-scooters are left. If they are not left in docking stations, they could be a real tripping hazard to those with visual impairments and other pedestrians.
So what if you are thinking of buying an e-scooter?
As the law stands, unless an e-scooter is to be used on private land, you should think very carefully before you buy an e-scooter. They are illegal to use on the vast majority of roads and you could be subject to a fine and six points on your licence should you do so. Currently (July 2020) they are only legal on roads in very limited circumstances such as the approved areas running the rental scheme trials.
Could the introduction lead to an increase in personal injury compensation claims?
The increase in rental schemes will no doubt raise the awareness of e-scooters and many people may purchase their own, so with more on the road, there is inevitably more risk. These are heavy machines travelling at fast speeds, and the potential for injury to riders and pedestrians is considerable.
What is the future for e-scooters?
Ultimately, it’s a balance of risk and benefit, and the pilot schemes will indicate whether there is a future for e-scooters and whether injuries caused by them increase.