The government could be set to force users of mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs to undergo training, take a test and buy insurance, following renewed safety concerns.
Transport minister Sadiq Khan has announced a three-month consultation on reforms aimed at modernising laws on mobility vehicles, which include both powered wheelchairs and scooters.
He said: “Mobility vehicles are a vital lifeline for many people and we want to ensure that everyone who needs one is able to use them safely and securely.”
The consultation document points to a “growing concern” about safety – particularly with scooters – although it says evidence suggests a “very low” number of injuries.
Up to 330,000 people use a mobility vehicle, while hospital figures suggest fewer than 40 people a year are severely injured by scooters, with around 95 per cent of injuries to the drivers.
The consultation asks how to reduce the number of injuries caused to pedestrians, and whether laws should be different for mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs.
Other questions include whether mobility vehicle-users should have to take out third party insurance, undergo compulsory training and pass a safety assessment.
The consultation also asks whether class three vehicles – those that travel at up to eight mph – should be allowed to go faster when used on roads, and whether the government should introduce new criminal offences of careless or dangerous driving of a mobility vehicle.
Other possibilities include lowering the minimum age for using a class three vehicle below 14, and allowing design changes so that a user could legally carry a baby or small child on their mobility vehicle.
And the consultation asks whether there should be stricter enforcement of the legal duty to register class three vehicles. Registration is currently free, but vehicles must display a tax disc. The registration scheme could also be extended to class two vehicles.
Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the charity Mobilise, said she believed there should be changes in the law because of the increasing number of scooter-users and the minority of people “who should not be riding them the way they do”.
She said: “I think compulsory training is a good idea. People that can drive safely have nothing to fear.
“Our members would like regulation because they feel that a small minority give them a bad name.”
And she said compulsory third party insurance was “just common sense”.
The Department for Transport consultation ends on 28 May.
4 March 2010