Where Does the Law Stand on E-scooters?

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It’s Brake Road Safety Week 2021, an annual awareness raising event to help save lives and get schools, organisations and communities to shout out for our right to make safe and healthy journeys every day.

To mark Road Safety Week, our specialist personal injury solicitors have written a series of blogs focusing on some of our most vulnerable road users.

In today’s blog, Annabelle Turner from our Swindon team, provides a helpful summary on the law regarding the use of e-scooters.

Recent years have seen a huge increase in popularity of e-scooters and alternative ‘motorised vehicles.’ But where does the law stand in the use of such vehicles and how does this relate to potential personal injury claims involving e-scooters?

 E-scooter pilot trials

More than 30 areas of the UK – including Newcastle, Bristol, Bournemouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight – are already operating government- backed e-scooter rental schemes as part of a pilot trial of e-scooters.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the e-scooter trials forward, because they offer people an environmentally friendly way of getting around at a social distance.

The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 came into force on 4 July 2020 with the first trial taking place in Tees Valley.  While the trials were originally intended to last for 12 months, they have now been extended to 31 March 2022.

E-scooters are categorised as ‘powered light electric vehicles’ or ‘powered transport’ and fall under the remit of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 have legalised rental e-scooters for use on carriageways or cycle lanes and sets out specific legal regulations to be followed:

  • Riders must have a full or provisional driving licence. They are responsible for any misuse and if they ride in an unsafe manner, they may be reported to the police who can apply points to their driving licence and/or issue a fine. You can also receive fines and penalty points for riding on the pavement, jumping a red light, using a mobile phone, or surpassing the e-scooter speed limit.
  • E-scooter riders must be 16 or over, however the requirement for a driving licence essentially brings the minimum age limit to 17.
  • There is a requirement for third party insurance, which is covered under the price of renting the e-scooter.
  • E-scooters can travel up to 15.5 miles per hour (mph).
  • E-scooters are subjected to a maximum power of 500 watts and a maximum weight (not including the rider) of 55kg.
  • Helmets are not a legal requirement, but they are very much recommended.
  • There is no requirement for registration, plating or payment of vehicle excise duty.
  • E-scooters should only be used within the local area hosting the trial and can only be used by one person at a time.
  • You must not use a mobile phone while riding an e-scooter. A screen may be used to display navigation information, but this must be set up before you undertake your journey.
  • It is illegal to ride an e-scooter under the influence of drink or drugs. You may be prosecuted under drink or drug driving laws, as careless and dangerous driving offences apply to the use of e-scooters.
  • It is illegal to ride an e-scooter on the pavement or in pedestrian-only areas.

Local e-scooter rules may apply

In addition to the specific laws set down by the UK Government, several individual cities have implemented their own regulations which go above and beyond those set by the Government. For example, in Bristol, the minimum age you can use an e-scooter is 18 and all e-scooters are plated to help to identify the e-scooter rider.

In London, the e-scooter trials were not introduced until the 7th June 2021.  E-scooters in London have been limited to a maximum speed of 12.5mph (3mph slower than the rest of the UK).  They also have front and rear lights permanently on and use geofencing to prevent use in specific areas, such as the royal parks.  First-time users in London will have to complete a safety lesson before their first e-scooter rental.

Over the trial period, there have been many reports of antisocial behaviour associated with e-scooter use.  Norfolk Constabulary listed 120 e-scooter related reports including assaults, burglaries, antisocial behaviour and traffic offences.

A further Freedom of Information Request (FOI) by the Daily Mail revealed that Scotland Yard recorded more than 200 incidents last year, while Merseyside Police recorded more than 100.

Privately-owned e-scooters and the law

But how does the law differ to privately-owned e-scooters? While privately-owned e-scooters are still categorised as ‘powered light electric vehicles’, as is also the case for hover boards, electric skateboards, segways and overpowered e-bikes, they have not yet been legalised for use in a public place.

It is currently illegal to use a privately-owned e-scooter on a public highway or footpath.  Originally, this meant that they were only legal for use on private land.  However, following a high-profile case (known as ‘Vnuk’ after a farmer was killed by a tractor on private land), insurance is now required for use of any motor vehicles on private land.

If you are caught using a privately-owned electric scooter on public land, you are liable to receive a £300 fine, 6 points on your license and the possibility of having your e-scooter confiscated.

It appears the UK Government plans to depart from ‘Vnuk’ and possibly remove the insurance requirement. This could mean that pursuit of a personal injury claim through the MIB for injuries sustained in an accident with an uninsured e-scooter rider may be short-lived.

Personal injury claims involving e-scooters

There is no EU Directive on e-scooters meaning that EU countries can regulate as they wish.  Until recently, there were no specific statutory provisions relating to e-scooters and so all developments in the law to date have come from the courts.

There is currently a low number of these types of claims, in part due to the low accident numbers and in part due to the limited awareness around the viable pursuit of such claims.

It is not explicitly stated within the law whether an e-scooter rider would be counted as a ‘vulnerable road user’.  However, it is likely that they will be seen in that way given the similar stances taken between e-scooter riders, cyclists and e-bike riders.  It seems that this is where future changes to the law are heading, to put these road users on a similar footing.

If an e-scooter rider is injured by the negligent actions of a third-party road user, then they can pursue a personal injury claim against the third party.  This type of claim would largely be pursued in line with that of an injured cyclist.

Injuries caused by an e-scooter rider

If a road user is injured by the negligent actions of a rental e-scooter rider, then they will be able to pursue a personal injury claim through the insurance that is covered in the e-scooter rental service.

The Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) is liable to compensate those injured where a vehicle is used without insurance.  This currently applies to those injured by an uninsured escooter rider however, if the law is changed to remove the insurance requirement, which seems likely, then this will no longer be possible.

There is likely to be a high level of unpredictability through the courts at this early stage in the use of e-scooters and other ‘motorised vehicles’ on the roads in the UK.

Our personal injury solicitors have substantial experience of bringing compensation claims for catastrophic and life changing injuries incurred on the road.

If you have been injured due to an e-scooter accident or injury that wasn’t your fault, contact our specialist solicitors today for a FREE, no-obligation chat. Email info@novumlaw.com, call 0800 884 0777, or complete our online enquiry form.

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