The government is set to attempt to improve mobility scooter safety, after new concerns were raised in parliament.
Mobility campaigners have backed calls for action, with estimates suggesting as many as 330,000 scooters are now in use.
Labour MP Jeff Ennis told the Commons how a constituent’s two-year-old daughter was injured after being dragged underneath a scooter.
Ennis said he was concerned that there was no compulsory training for scooter-users, and praised Norfolk police, which has introduced short, voluntary training courses for scooter-users in Great Yarmouth.
He called for a new criminal offence of “riding a mobility scooter in a dangerous way”, and said: “The crux of the problem is how we can ensure that mobility scooter users are proficient at riding their machines and are safe for themselves and other road-users.”
Another Labour MP, Hugh Bayley, said one of his constituents was seriously injured after being hit by a scooter in 2008 but received no compensation as the driver had no insurance.
Transport minister Sadiq Khan suggested that the government would soon launch a consultation on possible new legislation.
He told MPs it would be important “to balance the rights of people with disabilities with the rights of other people to feel safe”, but stressed that injuries were “rare and mostly minor” and scooters were “reasonably safe” when compared with other transport.
Hospital data suggests fewer than 40 people a year are severely injured by scooters, with around 95 per cent of injuries to the drivers.
The debate came as the Commons transport committee launched an inquiry into mobility scooters.
Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the mobility charity Mobilise, which will submit evidence to the inquiry, said they had been urging the government to examine the insurance issue.
She said: “I think it’s overdue. The numbers of scooters has grown enormously and we have phone calls from people saying, ‘I can’t drive anymore because of my eyesight, and I have just bought myself a scooter.’
“There’s nothing to stop people driving in an inappropriate way. Nobody really has insurance.
“There have been accidents, there have been injuries and I am sure there have been a lot more that have not been reported.”
But she added: “We wouldn’t want people’s mobility being restricted through unnecessary legislation.”
And she said action could possibly be taken to ensure safer design of scooters, many of which are “just hard lumps of metal”.
7 January 2010