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24 Aug 2020

Personal Injury

E-Scooters: What you need to know

E-scooters are the new trend in transport, claiming to be the greener way to commute to work and get around town easily. With plans being discussed to expand the Government’s e-scooter rental trial across the UK, we could soon be seeing more of them on our roads.

But before you make plans to ditch the car, bike or bus pass, there are some important restrictions that you should know about. Our Personal Injury Senior Associate Solicitor, Victoria Smithyman, explains the law and safety considerations around this latest form of transport.

The Law

On July 4, the Department for Transport introduced a private rental trial scheme allowing e-scooters to be rented and ridden on roads in selective areas around England. Currently, the West Midlands, Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby and Nottingham and the West of England Combined Authority (Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol & South Gloucestershire) are pioneering the initiative as an alternative option to public transport.

You don’t need your own insurance to hire an e-scooter but you do need a driving licence.

The Government will be monitoring the safety of the year-long scheme and, if successful, plans to roll it out to other parts of England too.  The Welsh Government is considering bringing in a similar initiative for Wales too.

However, what you may not know is that this private rental scheme is currently the only legal way to ride an e-scooter in the UK. Although you can buy one for as little as £100, it is currently against the law to use an e-scooter on any public road. If you use a privately owned e-scooter on any public road, cycle lane or pavement – even in the areas where the private rental scheme is being trialled – you can be fined a £300 fixed penalty notice and get six points on your driving licence.

The UK government says it is planning to revaluate the law regarding e- scooters, so we may see some changes soon, but for now, the only place you can ride a privately owned e-scooter is on private land.

Safety of E-scooters

Statistically, e-scooters are safe. The UK is one of only three countries that does not allow e-scooters on public roads, while in Europe, they are extremely common and have proved very successful. In Madrid, for example, riders took over a million trips last year alone.

A study by the International Transport Forum (ITF) on safety and micro mobility found that e-scooter riders do not face a significantly higher risk of road traffic death or injury than cyclists do. In fact, a trip by car or by motorcycle in a dense urban area is more likely to result in a traffic fatality than a trip by a micro-vehicle, which includes skateboards and skates as well as bicycles and scooters.

However, as with any new form of transport, it is better to be safe than sorry. There are still so many unknowns on the safety of e-scooters, which is why the government is conducting the consultation and trials.

E-scooters can reach speeds in excess of 30mph but some have only a single brake, which makes stopping safely more difficult, and could cause more accidents. Currently there is no legal requirement to wear protective gear; however, it is strongly advised, to protect the rider from harm.

Involved in an accident

Police are cracking down on e-scooter users in order to improve road safety. As we’ve said, they are currently banned on the roads but if the rental schemes are extended and the laws relaxed, there will inevitably be more collisions and accidents.

An e-scooter rider owes a duty of care to pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. The scooters are certainly capable of inflicting life-altering injuries when ridden dangerously so it is important to always take care when riding – or indeed when you are walking, cycling or driving near one.

UPDATE: June 2021

From June 7th 2021, electric scooters will be available to rent in a select number of London boroughs following successful launches in 32 trial areas, including Bristol and Middlesbrough.

While for many, e-scooters offer a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly means of getting from A to B, others have labelled them a ‘street menace’, with concerns over speed, protection and riders operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

With the city streets playing host to an increasing number of commuters, residents and tourists as restrictions continue to ease, it’s anticipated that this roll-out will spark a rise in personal injury claims.

E-scooter riders are classed as ‘vulnerable road users’ alongside cyclists and pedestrians, so riders that suffer injury as a result of negligence from motor vehicles will be entitled to make a claim.

However, if you fall foul of an e-scooter rider, you may end up the one out of pocket. E-scooters are classified as PLEVs – or ‘personal light electric vehicles’ – meaning they are subject to the same legal requirements as cars, including insurance. Government guidance states that riders using scooters in the trial areas should be covered by rental operators, but private e-scooters (although not legally permitted on public roads) will need to be independently insured.

There are also concerns over the ‘dumping’ of electric scooters on pavements, which presents a dangerous trip hazard to pedestrians, especially those who are visually impaired.

However, Transport for London have outlined a series of stricter safety standards in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents, including a lower maximum speed of 12.5mph, designated parking bays, working lights on both the front and the rear of the vehicle and a compulsory safety course before hire.

As the popularity of these two-wheeled wonders continues to soar, and with an examination of their legal status by the Transport Committee expected imminently, we anticipate that this won’t be the last time we’ll see e-scooters making the headlines.

If you have been involved in an e-scooter accident, and it wasn’t your fault, contact our expert team today on 01633 244233 or email us at hello@hevans.com . Our Personal Injury team will guide you through every step and will take care of your compensation claim so that you can focus on your recovery.

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