Mobility Scooters – do you see them?
Mobility Scooters or Invalid carriages are a common sight on our roads, pavements and in our shopping centres. But are they safe? There are around 400,000 currently on our streets a growth of 33% since the early 2000’s. We have got over the hysteria of 2003 and 2012 where motorised scooters or invalid carriages, as the law knows them, were demonised through a few high profile events. These were generally where older folk made serious errors such as driving them onto a motorway. But at present the danger to others by invalid carriage users has been assimilated into our daily lives. In fact recent work by the Department for Economy, Science and Transport and the National Assembly for Wales confirms that they of significant benefit to disabled people and goes even further suggesting amendments to the regulations to make them more available to younger folk.
The currently problem of invalid carriages is one of visibility – do you see them? The question is particularly appropriate as we approach the end of British Summer Time on Sunday 25th October 2015. Whether on the pavement, on the road or merely crossing the street at low speed (0-8mph) there are significant dangers to the users because they do not have to show front and rear position indicators (side lights) and there is no MOT required.
From our own recent field study of invalid carriages used in London and the South of England very few users are aware of the dangers and what simple steps can be taken to make the user safer. However whilst 84% of users complain that motorists and cyclists ignore them, drive too close and “bully” them. (89% complain that pedestrians get in the way and that many shopping isles are too narrow) only some 10% of carriage users wear a high visibility clothing item when they use their vehicles. This one change to wearing a high-vis vest would, we argue, ensure that scooter users feel safer because other road users would see them earlier and be able to react sooner. This would be a useful step forward and we would ask the DoT to consider making this move mandatory following a wider survey.
It is also the case that of the 10% of users who wear high visibility clothing when on their mobility scooter over 70% of these do so because they have been involved in an accident or near miss with a vehicle. It would be an interesting subject for further research to examine the times, dates and weather conditions of such events.
Other useful safety changes would be for current invalid carriages to be fitted, like bicycles with reflectors and with reflected chevrons on the rear surface of the vehicle.
The study of mobility scooter safety will become simpler as from 2015 the police service will record incidents including invalid carriages.
Meanwhile if you know a mobility scooter user don’t wait for wider research to prove our study you can buy a high visibility safety vest from around £5 and help them be safer in our community.