Electric scooters (e-scooters) are becoming more and more popular in Scotland, but unfortunately the law has not caught up with the fast-moving trend.
They have grown in popularity in recent years, as they are convenient, easy to use, eco-friendly and compared to cars or even most electric bikes, reasonably priced.
The UK Government brought forward trials of electric scooters due to the Covid pandemic to give the public an alternative way to get around whilst social distanced.
Rental schemes were made legal in the UK from July 2020 and more than 30 areas within the UK are operating rental schemes since with London being the latest city to trial E-scooters. It is only a matter of time before they will become a fully regulated mode of transport within the UK.
Who can rent an e-scooter?
Renting an e-scooter can be easily done from a smartphone, similar to the bicycle rental schemes around UK cities.
To rent an e-scooter from an official trial, you must have a category Q entitlement on your driving licence, be over 18 years old, own a smartphone and complete an online course. Helmets are not currently mandatory but this will likely change soon and some of the rental companies are throwing in helmets. Only rental e-scooters as part of government-backed trials can be used on public roads, subject to local Rules and Regulations.
Purchasing an e-scooter from a retailer is simple, but finding a place to ride may be difficult without breaking the law. In the UK, E-scooter sales are continuing to rise. Retailer Halfords saw a 184 percent increase in e-scooter sales in November 2020.
Where can I ride an e-scooter?
At present, it is illegal to ride a privately owned scooter on a public road, pavement or cycle path. If you own a privately owned e-scooter you can only ride on privately owned land with the land owner’s permission. If you are caught using a privately-owned electric scooter on public land, you are liable to receive a £300 fine, 6 penalty points on your license, your account to hire suspended and the possibility of having your scooter seized. Although with the number that seem to be around I am not sure how strictly this is being implemented!
There are no specific Laws for e-scooters so they are recognised as "powered transporters" - falling under the same laws and regulations as motor vehicles. They are subject to all the same legal requirements under the Road Traffic Act 1988 – MOT, tax and insurance.
This means while using a rental e-scooter you could be subject to fines and penalty points for actions reflecting the laws around driving a motor vehicle such as jumping a red light, riding on the pavement, using a mobile phone or surpassing the e-scooter speed limit.
A women was recently caught drink-driving an e-scooter and as a result being the first to face punishment of this type of misuse in the UK being banned from driving for 2 years and given a community order.
While they do prove to be a cleaner, low carbon alternative for those who do not want to cycle. At approximately £10 for an hour they are hardly an affordable alternative and travelling at a speed of 15.5mph does not make for a speedy commute.
How dangerous are e-scooters?
The UK Government are currently running trials to determine the positive and negative impacts of e-scooters on public roads to ascertain where the law should stand on electric scooters moving forward.
Research suggests that e-scooters are 100 times more dangerous than bicycles. At least four people have died in accidents involving e-scooters in the UK. The exact number of crashes involving e-scooters is said to be under-reported however the Met Police have stated the numbers were increasing "sharply".
The future of e-scooter claims
As e-scooters become more widely adopted, there needs to be greater regulation and legal clarity if they are to provide a place in the transport sector in the future.
The Transport Committee of MPs has called for e-scooters to be legalised on roads, but not pavements going forwards and the trials are due to finish in 2022.
With the increase in usage, there will inevitably be an increase in the number of accidents involving e-scooters. Due to the vulnerability of the user when on an e-scooter is on the road, we would strongly recommend that a helmet is always wore to avoid serious head injuries. The potential injury to riders and pedestrians is considerable.
Ultimately, it’s a balance of risk and benefit, and hopefully by the end of the trials there will be an indication where the future of e-scooters will lie. It will be interesting to see, however it would appear with the numbers and the interest they creating they are here to stay!
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If you're looking for legal advice in relation to e-scooters or have been involved in an accident as a result of someone else's negligence please don't hesitate to get in touch.