For many ill, elderly and disabled people, mobility scooters are a lifeline – a means of much needed independence and an indispensable way of getting about.
Unfortunately, a minority of users drive their scooters inappropriately when on the pavement, either travelling too fast, not looking where they are going or misjudging speed and distance. As a result, ordinary pedestrians can get hurt – sometimes seriously.
It is estimated that there are now 350,000 people in Britain using mobility scooters and around 80,000 sold ever year. But, as the number of users has gone up, the number of accidents has inevitably risen too:
Coreen Stone’s case
A client of Wards Solicitors, Portishead pensioner Coreen Stone, 72, was injured as a result of a collision with a man on a mobility scooter in February.
She was walking along Clevedon High Street at the same time as a man was driving his mobility scooter along the road.
When he saw a red light at a pelican crossing, preventing him temporarily from turning right, he decided to drive his mobility scooter onto the pavement on the other side of the crossing to continue his journey.
In doing so, he struck Mrs Stone from behind, knocked her to the ground and then drove up onto her back, pinning her to the ground. The driver and his mobility scooter had to be manually lifted off Mrs Stone.
Mrs Stone was left with two fractured wrists and a fractured ankle. She spent 13 days in hospital and still cannot drive or take part in the activities she once enjoyed.
Richard Green, a Solicitor in the Wards Personal Injury team, has been acting on behalf of Mrs Stone and has already secured for her an interim payment to fund counselling needed because of the psychological effects of the accident.
Although the driver involved was in this case insured, Mrs Stone believes greater regulation is needed after having witnessed several near misses.
As with any other form of powered transport, there are clear dangers in misusing mobility scooters. Mrs Stone feels there should be compulsory training and insurance in place if things go wrong, just as with any other motorised vehicle.
The legal position
Mobility scooters are defined as medical devices and as such are not legally classed as motor vehicles in the terms of the Road Traffic Act.
There are two types – one, known as a Class 2 mobility scooter, which has an upper speed limit of 4mph (6km/h) and is designed to be used on pavements.
The second, known as a Class 3 mobility scooter, has an upper speed limit of 8mph (12 km/h) and is allowed on the road as long as if complies with a strict list of safety features including brakes, lights and a horn.
Because the law does not class mobility scooters as ‘motor vehicles’ there is no legal requirement for insurance, even though the Government recommends it, or training of any kind.
However, the Highway Code does apply to both classes of scooter. When used on the road, the user should obey the Code’s rules for the road. When used on a pavement, they should follow the guidelines and rules for pedestrians.
There are also specific sections within the Highway Code dedicated to mobility scooters and if someone negligently drives a mobility scooter and causes a collision, they can be held legally responsible for any injuries caused to others.
Calls for action
There have been calls for further legislation in this area and some MPs have demanded compulsory training for mobility scooter drivers.
Alison Seabeck, former MP for Plymouth, Moor View, told her local paper in 2012: “With more and more mobility vehicles on the roads, the lack of knowledge amongst some users regarding safety and visibility, and in some cases poor roadworthiness, are all potential causes of accidents leading to injury and death.
“If the growth in numbers continues at the current rate then the Government must take action. The public seem to agree.
“We need to know who is using these vehicles and training on purchase, whether privately or from a shop, should become a mandatory requirement.”
Bringing a claim
If someone has been hurt as a result of being hit by a mobility scooter, they will usually have three years from the date of the incident to begin court proceedings.
The Highway Code: Rules for users of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters
North Somerset Times, 30 May 2016 – Pensioner injured after motor scooter crash