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Mobility scooter survey finds many users are ignorant of the law


By Jason Tate

The rules governing mobility scooter use are clear but a report for the Department of Transport has highlighted a flaw where suppliers of larger vehicles are not legally required to tell a buyer that it must be registered with the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) before it can be taken on a road.

The rules over registration are similar to those that apply to cars and motorbikes but only apply to larger scooters - those that fall into Class 3. Lighter scooters - or Class 2 vehicles - may only be used on private property and pavements, not roads.

Class 3 scooters are larger and can legally be used on public roads - with the exception of motorways and the DoT advises users not to take them onto dual carriageways where the speed limit is higher than 50mph.

But the report, which was carried out by the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs, found that the requirement to register Class 3 scooters with the DVLA should be reviewed because compliance with it is patchy. The RICA report even criticised NHS wheelchair suppliers for failing to tell buyers of the requirement which, if it is not complied with, can cause problems for the owner when it comes to selling a scooter on or scrapping it. The report recommends that the requirement either be amended or scrapped altogether.

RICA also found that up to 25 per cent of all Class 2 mobility scooter users regularly use their vehicle on the road in contravention of the law. However, it said that most do so because they believe that driving a scooter on the road is safer than on the pavement because of the risk of hitting a pedestrian.

More than one in five mobility scooter users told RICA that they have had at least one accident while using their vehicle which has left them nervous when taking them out. Most of these involved the scooter tipping over on uneven pavements, rough surfaces or slopes.

RICA has recommended a large-scale review of the use of mobility vehicles so that policymakers can draw up new guidance for those planning improvements to public transport, road and pedestrian infrastructure. It said that with sales growing at more than 10 per cent a year, there is an urgent need for transport and planning authorities to make provision for an increasing number of users of all ages when planning infrastructure development or upgrades.

The number of mobility vehicle sales may be underestimated, says RICA, because commercial market data is inaccurate. It focuses on total value and not the actual number of scooters sold or the second-hand market which it does not cover. RICA recommends a series of Omnibus surveys across the country to ascertain the exact number of mobility scooters per thousand people. The market for mobility vehicles - including wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters - grew from £224 million in 2009 to £276 million last year. By 2017 it will be worth £360 million, the report said.

RICA’s report also challenged received wisdom that the overwhelming majority of mobility scooter users are elderly. It found that most users - more than 50 per cent - are under the age of 65. RICA also found that more than a quarter of users owned more than one type of scooter and that these classes of vehicles have brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of people with 74 per cent of users saying they would not be able to make any journeys at all without their scooter. The report has highlighted the need for users to take responsibility in ensuring that they choose the right mobility scooter for their needs and that they use the vehicle legally:

Class 2 scooters:

Often described as ‘boot scooters’ because they can be folded up and put into a car boot, these cannot be driven on the road and must not exceed a speed of 4mph. There’s no legal requirement for a user to have insurance but it is recommended. You don’t need to register a Class 2 scooter with the DVLA.

Class 3 scooters:

These can be used on public roads. Their weight cannot exceed 150kg, must not be wider than 85cm and must have a maximum speed of no more than 8mph if driven on a road. If you take a Class 3 scooter on a pavement, then you must not exceed 4mph. If you intend to use it on a road, then you must ensure that your scooter is fitted with front and rear light reflectors, direction indicators, a horn and a mirror. The scooter must be registered with the DVLA and although it is not mandatory to hold insurance, both the Dot and mobility organisations recommend it.

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