Mobility scooters and similar aids are classed by the government departments and DVLA using the somewhat outdated and possibly derogatory term invalid carriages. There are three classifications:
- Class 1 – non powered aids such as walking frames and manually propelled wheel chairs.
- Class 2 – powered wheel chairs and mobility scooters of a defined weight and which can be limited / restricted to a maximum speed of 4mph. Their intended use is limited to footpaths unless there is no footpath.
- Class 3 – mobility scooters and carriages designed for road use, again subject to a maximum defined weight and a top speed of 8mph. They need to be registered and taxed (nil rate) with DVLA.
- In all cases precedent must be afforded to pedestrians on footpaths.
- Only a minority of class 3 scooters are registered.
- There is no compulsory insurance for any category.
- There are no formal training, testing or suitability appraisal requirements.
- The Highway Code has 10 ambiguous points regarding ‘invalid carriages’ alias ‘mobility scooters’.
- Class 2 scooters can be used on the road without any of the additional requirements / fitments of class 3 if there is no footpath available.
- Unless a scooter is registered, or in the case of an accident a vehicle and personal injury is involved there is no automatic requirement for police to be informed or involved.
- There is a mine field of ambiguity in the event of unregistered / unsuitable mobility aids being used on public highways. Ultimately it would be the jurisdiction of the courts with the potential for huge pay-outs not covered by insurance.
Without exception people purchasing and using mobility aids will be doing so as a result of limiting medical issues which could have an impact on their ability to safely use such equipment without suitable training and / or assessment. They may never had had any training or driven any kind of vehicle.
Even where legally used on a footpath a ‘scooter’ is indeed a vehicle which, even at 4mph maximum permitted speed and weighing perhaps around a 100kg or more plus the persons weight, can inflict significant damage to both persons and property. Where there are agility / mobility factors, ones of a mental bias there can be significant risks.
A token poll of mobility suppliers indicates big differences in their approach to ‘responsibility’. However, more and more scooters are now purchased ‘on-line’ without matching to a person’s needs, no instruction etc., etc.
There are soaring numbers of scooters in use. There are estimated to be in excess of 700,000, which is more than the number of registered HGVs in the UK, and the figure no doubt will soon top 1 million. Reported accident figures for killed / serious injured are rising year on year plus the less serious incidents. Because of many anomalies in the formal reporting processes it is certain the true figures are underrepresented.
A class 2 scooter traveling along a non-footpath narrow twisting country lane of any speed limit. The scooter has no indicators, lights or mirrors, the wheels are tiny, no high-vis markings, the rider has arthritis in the hands and mobility / agility issues and no suitability competence assessment. The rider may even do the ‘dog walk’ as well. Unfortunately this scenario is frequently reality with potentially dire results.