Do mobility scooters have a public perception problem? BBC’s Jeremy Vine talks scooters and road safety
As mobility scooters continue to gain wider mainstream coverage, popular BBC presenter Jeremy Vine on his midday show on the 13th May raised the question of mobility scooters being used on roads, with retailer Mobility Giant director Laurence Wright and broadcaster & writer Andy West discussing the topic.
Pointing out recent occasions when mobility scooters have made headlines, including a lane being closed on the M25 on the weekend when a mobility scooter accidentally joined the motorway and a viral video of a 92-year-old man in Melbourne holding up a highway, Vine questioned the use of scooters on busy roads.
Vine said: “Clearly, a motorway is the last place a mobility scooter should ever be but certain models can legally travel on roads and even dual carriageways, where the speed limit is less than 50mph.”
See the viral Melbourne video here:
“The 8mph, class 3 scooter is the one that is allowed to go onto certain roads,” commented Wright.
“They are not supposed to be driving in bus lanes, cycle lanes or motorways, and preferably to avoid dual carriageways with speed limits over 50mph.”
Blown out of proportion?
Examining the popularity of mobility scooters and the number of accidents, Wright said: “They are becoming more and more popular as people tend to get sicker younger. So that is probably why you are seeing more of them on the roads.
“It isn’t just necessarily old people who are using them, it’s people all the way down to their 30s and 40s.”
With rising incidents of mobility scooters reaching news headlines, the topic of scooter safety has been gaining more attention inside the industry, with retailers, charities, educational institutions and manufacturers taking action and running safety initiatives.
“If safety is the issue here, then pushbikes cause a great deal more problems on safety than I think mobility scooters do, so you have to put it into perspective.” Laurence Wright
According to Wright however, the number of serious accidents involving mobility scooters are relatively low: “In terms of accidents, there are obviously, like that instant [mentioned by Jeremy], rare cases like that, but we have thousands and thousands and thousands of customers and very, very rarely do they have an incident.
“It is pretty much almost unheard of, apart from, for example, someone driving into a stack of beans at a supermarket. Very rarely are there serious incidents in our experience.”
Raising concerns surrounding vulnerable users’ safety on roads, Andy West stated that if someone was to suggest to an individual with limited vision or delayed reactions to travel next to lorries, vans and cars travelling up to 50mph, that person “would be likened to the reincarnation of Caligula.”
“I think the safety of the people using the scooters needs to be taken more into account and I am amazed to see that you don’t have to pass a test to ride these things on the road,” he added.
When asked if mobility scooter users should be required to undergo a test, Lawrence responded: “There has been talk of that for some time but you have to understand, the majority of people that use mobility scooters don’t really want to use them on the roads. It’ll only be a few people, for example, live in the countryside and have no pavements to access their local shops, so they have to use them on the roads.
“But you don’t want to run away with the idea that there are loads and loads of people dying to get out on dual carriageways and busy roads on mobility scooters; it’s very rare that happens.
“If safety is the issue here, then pushbikes cause a great deal more problems on safety than I think mobility scooters do, so you have to put it into perspective.”
Remarking that certain mobility scooter users will happily travel on busy roads, Andy said: “It does tend to be the personalities who do this and take their mobility scooters onto busy roads tend to be of the belligerent ilk and I sort of respect them for it but it is dangerous.”
He finished by emphasising mobility scooter users who hold up traffic are putting themselves and other drivers into danger.
Interestingly, comments received from listeners of the show surrounding mobility scooters were largely negative, suggesting that the mobility devices, which help individuals retain independence and freedom, have a public perception problem.
One caller noted being run over by an elderly scooter rider which caused quite substantial personal injury, another individual described mobility scooters as “unregulated menaces” after their young child was struck by one in an English coastal town, whilst someone else said they “detest mobility scooters.”
Richard Martin, a lorry driver from Eastbourne, also expressed his view as a professional driver, noting that mobility scooters “are the bane of our lives – they have no insurance, they don’t look where they are going and the drivers are usually 100-years-old. I have seen a mile of traffic stuck behind a scooter on the roads.”
Do you think a mobility scooter test for class 3 vehicles should be introduced for use on roads or would it unfairly impact mobility scooter users, with no such test required for pushbikes? Do mobility scooters have a perception problem with the wider public? Email email@example.com and share your thoughts.