11 May, 2022
It is currently legal for anyone to buy an e-scooter, although it is illegal to use it on a public road. Only e-scooters rented through an approved Government trial scheme are legal to use on the road. At present, they must not exceed 15.5mph and a weight of 55kg, and must include a number of other safety features, including lights and GPS technology to prevent them being used in prohibited areas. Riders must also be 16 years or older and hold at least a provisional driving licence.
It is estimated that nearly one million e-scooters have been sold to date in the UK, and they are fast becoming a common sight in major towns and cities, with many riders being unaware or unconcerned that they are banned from the highway. Some 3,637 scooters were seized by the Metropolitan Police between January and November 2021, and any owners wanting to retrieve them were forced to pay a £150.00 fine, or suffer a £10.00 per day storage charge. Riders who persistently break the law may also face six points on their licence.
MPs have debated for some time, both for and against making non-rental e-scooters road legal, with some arguing they are unsafe and pose a significant risk to pedestrians and car drivers, and others saying that the sheer numbers already riding illegally on UK highways is so out of control, and impossible to police, that the only option now is to bring in laws to regulate them.
E-scooter accidents rose by almost 2,800% in London in 2021, with recent Metropolitan Police data showing there were 258 recorded collisions in the capital in the first six months of 2021. A sharp spike compared to the 38 recorded accidents in the prior year.
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said; "The use of private e-scooters on the roads could soon be permitted under a change in the law. In the future, I want to crack down on the illegal use on roads of non-compliant e-scooters".
Conservative MP Simon Jupp responded raising his concerns over e-scooters' safety, saying; "There were 900 collisions between 2021 - 2022, 11 of which were fatal. I am concerned Mr Shapps' comments indicate the Department for Transport (DfT) is considering allowing private e-scooters on roads".
Despite these concerns, it seems near-inevitable that e-scooters will be legalised in the near future. The House of Commons Transport Committee have welcomed the legislation, recommending that the Department for Transport should now legalise private e-scooters as soon as possible, suggesting that it was time the Country had a grown up conversation about the fact that we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions from transport. If it's not e-scooters and e-bikes, then what is the alternative?
Whether they will be made subject to stricter enforcement against pavement use and speed limits remains to be seen. There is also the question of insurance. As things stand, because it is illegal to ride a privately-owned e-scooter on public land, owners of e-scooters cannot currently get insurance. If the law changes, it is highly likely insurance policies will follow to change with it, I suspect sparking further debates around safety issues, i.e. will they require larger wheels, indicators, number plates and acoustic warning systems etc? , and what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of private e-scooters already in use, which are unlikely to meet those new regulations.
What is clear to see is that E-scooters are here, and they're not going to go away. By legalising them, at least the Government can introduce stricter regulations to make them as comparatively safe and effective as possible. But without the proper infrastructure and rules to support the changes, accidents will be inevitable.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently reviewing the regulatory framework for the safe deployment of e-bikes on the road. Only time will tell as to how quickly they will take to the roads in the UK, and what the fall out will be in terms of insurance, tax and determining liability for accidents and injury.
If you, a friend or relative have been injured as a result of an e-scooter or any other road traffic collision please contact us. Forbes Solicitors have an experienced Personal Injury Claims Team dealing with all aspects of road traffic accidents on a no win, no fee basis.
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