E-scooters have become increasingly popular as a method of transport in the UK, and with the cost of fuel prices continually rising it is easy to see the attraction of an e-scooter as a cheap mode of transportation. E-scooters also have other advantages such as health benefits as well as sustainability by helping to preserve the environment.
E-scooters are generally considered motor vehicles intended or adapted for use on the road according to s185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This means they require third party insurance, tax, a driver’s licence, and have to meet certain characteristics. As they are classed as motor vehicles intended for use on the road, they cannot legally be used on the pavement.
Current legal requirements
Rental e-scooters were legalised recently by the Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020. They have to meet specific criteria such as:
- Maximum weight 55kg;
- Maximum speed 15.5mph;
- Maximum power 500 watts;
- Direction controlled with handlebars;
- Speed controller on handlebars;
- Power defaults to off position.
Riders of a rental e-scooter are also subject to criteria:
- Users must have a full or provisional driving licence.
- Must have third party insurance.
- Users must be 16 or over.
Currently the use of a private e-scooter on the road is illegal. However the law is set to change, with the Government planning to make private e-scooters legal for road use in England, following rental trials across the UK.
The number of e-scooter related injuries has risen in the past 12 months. According to the BBC, a total of 173 patients were treated at the scene and then taken to A&E, compared with 124 in 2020.
Whereas rental scooters need to have a number of safety features, such as automatic lights, a maximum speed and compulsory insurance to protect both the rider and anyone unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision, privately owned e-scooters currently have no such provisions.
Rental e-scooters in the UK have a maximum speed limit of 15.5mph, compared to privately owned e-scooters which can reach speeds of up to 68 mph. Private e-scooters can only be used on private land and not on public road, cycle lanes or pavements. Currently e-scooters can only be used on the road as part of rental scheme trials, although more often than not privately owned e-scooters are often spotted in towns and cities.
According to the Department for Transport national statistics, in the year ending June 2021 there were 931 casualties in accidents involving e-scooters, 3 of which were reported as fatal, 199 reported as seriously injured and 530 as slightly injured.
Cycle helmets are recommended but perhaps surprisingly it is not a legal requirement to wear a cycle helmet. This is despite head injuries being among the most common types of e-scooter injuries reported by the NHS.
The guidance on the Government website states: “You should wear a cycle helmet when using an e-scooter. Helmets are recommended but not a legal requirement. Make sure that your cycle helmet conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and is securely fastened.”
E-scooters are easily able to move at speeds faster than 12 mph and therefore the standard bicycle helmet would arguably prove less effective in this scenario. The introduction of a more impact-withstanding helmet might conceivably be appropriate for users of e-scooters.
If you become involved an e-scooter accident, there is little to stop you from reporting the rider to the police, DVLA or his/her own motor insurer.
Claims against the riders of rental e-scooters ought to be directed against the rider and insurer.
In respect of privately owned e-scooters:
- E-scooters are motor vehicles for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
- Accordingly, they require third party insurance when ridden on the road.
- They also require third party insurance for use on private land.
Very often people seen riding privately-owned e-scooters will usually be riding without insurance. This can lead to a fine and penalty points on a driving licence.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau is liable to compensate those injured where a vehicle is used without insurance pursuant to the Uninsured Drivers’ Agreement 2015. Therefore, claims against privately owned e-scooter riders should generally be directed towards the MIB.
As a serious injury lawyers, we are always acutely aware of the loss and devastation caused by a serious or fatal road traffic collision. We therefore believe it is vital that safety measures are put in place to reduce the risk of a serious injury caused by e-scooters, such as wearing a helmet. There should also be restrictions to the maximum speed limit a privately owned e-scooter can travel.
We also believe that any e-scooter rider should have to pass a theory test or hold a provisional driving licence to ensure they have appropriate knowledge. Efforts should be made to raise awareness of the dangers, so that other road users are trained and educated on how to treat e-scooters on the road, such as keeping a safe passing distance.
We believe that taking steps to introduce robust e-scooter regulations will not only protect all road users, but also minimise the dangerous and illegal use of e-scooters whilst helping to reduce the number of preventable incidents. Our specialist team have dealt with serious injuries ranging from traumatic brain injuries to orthopaedic injuries following a road traffic collision.