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September 27th 2021

Pedestrian Accident

Why further regulation on the use of e-scooters is needed to protect the public

Cameron Lees-Weir

Cameron Lees-Weir

Litigation Executive, Personal Injury

Why further regulation on the use of e-scooters is needed to protect the public

E-scooters are becoming increasingly popular, and with good enough reason. It has been no secret that governments all around the world are making considered efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and go green.

E-scooters are becoming increasingly popular, and with good enough reason. It has been no secret that governments all around the world are making considered efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and go green.

In the UK in 2016, it was estimated that transport was the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 1.82 tonnes of CO2 per person, per year. It’s a no brainer that providing carbon-free transport alternatives would have a huge impact on this.

Whilst this is good news, many believe that not enough thought has been put into regulating this area in order to protect the public.

The difficulty is that science and technology can progress at a much faster rate than the law can catch up. With this in mind, legislators are more commonly making attempts to future-proof legislation to cover any such immediate and foreseeable developments.

Road Traffic Act and the issue of e-scooters

Unfortunately, the Road Traffic Act 1988 is not fit for purpose for today’s road users and range of vehicle types. One large gap which is becoming increasingly problematic is the use of alternative transport and e-scooters.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 is the main piece of legislation covering road users and providing protection to members of the public. The first layer of protection is that all drivers must have passed their driving test, hold a driver’s licence fit for their vehicle, and be physically fit to drive.

The second layer of protection comes from section 143 of the Act – compulsory third-party insurance. This means that there is an avenue of recompense for victims should they be involved in a road traffic accident which was not their fault.

What regulations currently exists for e-scooters?

Electric scooters cannot legally be used in public areas in the UK. However, the Government has set up trial areas, where members of the public can rent an electric scooter and use it on the road or in cycle lanes.

Hull, where Hudgell Solicitors has one of its offices, is not one of these trial areas, the closest trial areas to Hull are Scunthorpe and York.

There are regulations in these trials to protect the public, such as:

  • E-scooters are limited to a maximum of 15.5mph
  • A valid driver’s licence is required
  • Insurance is provided automatically through the renters
  • They must be used on roads and cycle lanes only

The e-scooter rental providers in the trial areas would ensure that a user has a driver’s licence, is given insurance and provides them with a scooter with an automatic speed cap.

They are also considered as ‘motor vehicles’ for the purposes of insurance.

Need for further regulation on use of e-scooters

Let’s assume you live outside of these trial areas, where e-scooters are still being regularly used despite them being illegal. Their ever-increasing popularity suggests that they are here to stay.

One of the benefits of using an e-scooter is they are more manoeuvrable than other travel options. In many cities there are areas which cannot be accessed by a typical vehicle, but practically there is no stopping an e-scooter from using that area.

However, e-scooters are being driven at high speeds, in close proximity to many pedestrians, by people without driver’s licences and without any insurance.

It is no surprise then that pedestrians are being hit by users of e-scooters and as a result are sustaining injuries, and these are becoming more common.

A recent US study found that the accident rate for e-scooters was 14.3 per 100,000 trips, which sounds quite low but in comparison this is 16 times more likely than being injured by a car driver.

I’ve been hit by an e-scooter, how can I make a personal injury claim?

There is no requirement for an e-scooter to hold third-party insurance, which leaves a gap which needs to be filled urgently. It is the same situation with mobility scooters and even many cyclists.

If such insurance is held then, subject to the rider/driver being at fault, a personal injury claim can be made – but if not, is there any recourse? Technically, yes – you could bring a claim against the e-scooter rider directly, but chances of being able enforce any judgment may be slim.

While standard public liability cover is routinely included in home insurance policies, such policies also specifically exclude cover for accidents involving any motorised vehicle/electrically assisted pedal cycle.

In typical road accidents, if a driver of a vehicle has no insurance, or cannot be traced (for example in a hit and run), then the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) will investigate the claim in place of an insurer and if there is evidence on fault on the part of the driver, make a payment for personal injury compensation.

Unfortunately, the MIB does not accept claims where a victim has been injured by an e-scooter user at the moment. Calls are being made for this to be reconsidered.

Suggestions for reforms around the use of e-scooters

The public must have increased levels of protection against e-scooter users and the Government must accept that they are going to be used in public whether they are made legal or not.

Suggestions for reform include:

  • Compulsory registration of e-scooter owners on purchase
  • Compulsory third-party public liability insurance to be enforced
  • If no insurance is provided, for the Motor Insurance Bureau to accept claims from people who are injured by e-scooter users
  • For all e-scooters to be considered “motor vehicles” to reflect the trial use
  • For safe dedicated paths to be installed in heavy traffic areas

The Department for Transport has not provided any clues as to its views or plans for potential reform. It has extended the e-scooter trials until March 2023 to obtain evidence and assess their viability on public roads.

Unfortunately, it is therefore likely that any reform will not come into force until well after this date.

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