E-scooters are a convenient way to travel and have environmental benefits. According to Google Trends data, since the start of lockdown there has been a surge in interest with a 376% increase in searches for e-scooters.
Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a £2 billion funding package for green transport, which included e-scooters, as he aims to improve overcrowding on public transport during the Coronavirus pandemic.
A trial to assess the suitability of e-scooter rental schemes was due in 2021 but this was brought forward and from July 4, the government started a year-long trial of rented e-scooters. Middlesbrough became the first area to launch a trial rental scheme in the UK.
During the trial electric scooters will be classed as motor vehicles and users will need a driving licence and insurance to ride one. Use of the rental scooters will be legal and insurance will be provided by the rental provider.
Although electric scooters are available to buy in retail outlets, only rented scooters will be legal under the law that applies in England, Scotland and Wales.
As private scooters remain illegal on UK roads riders could face a £300 fine and six points on their licence, if caught riding one.
Lee Griffin, founder and CEO of GoCompare Car Insurance said: “Privately-owned e-scooters are currently banned from use on the public highway but, this doesn’t seem to be deterring people from using them. We’re concerned that following government advice to avoid public transport because of the pandemic, more people will buy an e-scooter to use for short journeys, without perhaps realising that they can only use them on private land. There’s also the potential for people to be confused by the government’s rental trials into thinking that privately-owned electric scooters are now road-legal, when this isn’t the case.
“Unlike electric bicycles, e-scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles and are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles – including technical safety standards, road tax, and insurance. Private electric scooters currently on the market don’t meet these requirements so, can’t be used legally on the road.”
Riders are not allowed to scoot on pavements, only on roads or cycle lanes, at a maximum speed of 15.5mph and it is recommended that riders wear helmets. Riders will need a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence to use the vehicles, and they must be aged 16 or over.
Requiring a licence to hire the scooters has been welcomed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). It states: “This is important as it will help make sure people stick to the rules. If someone rents an e-scooter and gets into a crash with a pedestrian, it will mean that person can be traced.”
As e-scooters are electric they have no audible sound. You cannot hear them approaching which, some safety bodies believe, could be dangerous for pedestrians.
The RNIB has serious concerns about the impact e-scooters could have on the safety, confidence and independence of blind and partially sighted people.
Highlighting key issues including the 15mph speed limit, the lack of sound, safe parking of rental e-scooters, and pavement riding, RNIB Chair, Eleanor Southwood told the Transport Select Committee in Parliament: “It’s really clear that even with all of the safeguards, we do consider e-scooters to be a real and genuine threat to the ability of blind and partially sighted people to move around independently and safely.”
There are concerns about insurance and potential claims if someone is injured on or by an electric scooter.
TV presenter and YouTuber Emily Hartridge, was the first person killed on an e-scooter in the UK. She was on her way to a fertility clinic when she was involved in the crash, in Battersea, London. No one has been arrested over the death.
If a user is caught disobeying the laws around electric scooters not only will they be subject to a fine but could also end up with points on their licence. Car insurance companies view drivers with penalty points as a greater risk and insurance premiums will increase.
In addition to a fine and six points on their licence, drivers will face higher car insurance premiums because of a conviction and the police also have the power to confiscate the scooter. The consequences are even more severe for newly qualified drivers who are only allowed six points on their licence in the first two years of driving, so could end up losing their licence.
Lee Griffin, from GoCompare added: “The consequences for drivers caught flouting e-scooter rules can be costly. As well as receiving an on-the-spot fine, drivers face having six penalty pointed added to their licence. Car insurers view drivers with a motoring conviction as a greater risk and increase premiums accordingly. The consequences are even more severe for newly qualified drivers who are only allowed to rack-up six points in the first two years of driving, so could end up losing their licence. To be allowed on the roads again, they must reapply for a provisional licence and re-take both the theory and practical parts of the driving test.”
It is essential that insurance is included in the scooter hire as anyone injured by an electric scooter will then be able to claim compensation.
Responding to the Department for Transport’s Future of Transport Regulatory Review Call for Evidence -Legalising E-scooter Rental Trials, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said: “People who are injured by these vehicles should not be forced to pursue a lengthy, costly and potentially unsuccessful claim through the courts – there should be insurance in place so that they can be properly compensated as quickly as possible.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to treat e-scooters as motor vehicles during rental trials, meaning that requirements to have insurance and the correct type of driving license will continue to apply.”
For more information on accidents or injuries caused by e-scooters contact NV Legal on 03330 112732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org