What is the law on electric scooters?
Residents in the South West can now use electric scooters to get around as part of a government trial. The region is the first in the UK to offer Voi e-scooters in the hope that it reduces congestion and improves air quality. But what is the law on using them?
The Department of Transport’s trial of e-Scooters will provide the information necessary to help decide whether to fully legalise e-scooters. Currently, e-scooters are classed as motor vehicles, meaning requirements to have insurance and the correct type of driving licence apply. The government may look to amend the law to treat e-scooters more like EAPCs (electrically assisted pedal cycle).
What’s the difference between e-scooters in the trial and private e-scooters?
The e-scooters being used in the South West trial are run by Voi. The rules for these are below.
- Users are allowed to reach a maximum speed of 15.5mph and the speed will be restricted on the trial vehicles.
- E-scooters used in the trials must be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy. Rental operators, such as Voi, will ensure a policy is in place that covers the users of the vehicles.
- E-scooter users need to have a valid driving licence (either full or provisional). When users ‘hire’ their e-scooter, they will be asked to upload a photo of their driving licence to the Voi app.
- The government has recommended that users should wear a helmet but it is not mandatory.
- E-scooters are allowed on the road (except motorways) and in cycle lanes and tracks.
The rules for private e-scooters, i.e. ones bought by an individual are different.
It is illegal to use private e-scooters on a public road without complying with several legal requirements. These include:
- Insurance – users must have their own vehicle insurance.
- Users must conform with technical standards and standards of use in line with the safety requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, which have been amended by the Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
- Payment of vehicle tax, licensing, and registration.
- Driver testing and licensing.
- The use of relevant safety equipment, e.g. a helmet.
If users of private e-scooters can meet these requirements, it might, in principle, be lawful for them to use public roads. However, users will likely find it very difficult to comply with all of these requirements (for example, these scooters don’t always have number plates or visible rear red lights), meaning that it would be a criminal offence to use them on the road.
Unlike the e-scooters being used in the trial, it is illegal to use private scooters in spaces that are set aside for use by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, including on the pavement and in cycle lanes. They are also only legal to use on private land with the permission of the owner.
As e-scooters are classed as a road-legal vehicle, the Highway Code applies, hence why they cannot be used on the pavement.
What happens if I have an accident whilst using an e-scooter?
Accidents involving electric scooters have resulted in fatalities in numerous countries, however, the real amount is unknown as accidents involving private e-scooters being illegally used are going unreported.
Under s185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, e-scooters are classified as personal light electric vehicles. This means that they are treated as, and covered by the same laws that apply to, motor vehicles. Therefore, if you are in an accident whilst using an e-scooter, whether it’s a government trialled one or a private scooter, you should report the incident to the police and take details of the other party and/or any witnesses, as you would if you had a car or cycling accident.
If an e-scooter user is injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another person or driver, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
What if the accident was my fault?
Under the current trial, the e-scooters must have a motor vehicle policy, which would be in place in the event of an accident. If a private e-scooter is involved, it is unlikely to have insurance. This means that if a pedestrian is injured by a private e-scooter, they may not be able to recover compensation unless the rider has financial assets to cover the claim.
If you are using an e-scooter from the trial, e.g. a Voi scooter, and the accident was your fault, you will have the benefit of the provider’s insurance policy to deal with any claim and potentially cover the cost of any compensation for the injured party, providing that you have adhered to the terms of the policy.
If you are found negligent of your duty of care to other road users, you could be taken to court for a compensation claim, the same as you would when using a car.
It is worth checking any existing insurance policy you hold, for example, home insurance, to see whether it has any legal expenses insurance that may be used to defend a claim against you. You can also seek specialist legal advice from a personal injury solicitor who can assist in defending such claims.
Fines for using e-scooters
If you are caught breaking the rules for the current rental trial scheme or using a private e-scooter on a public road, you can face fines of £300 and six points on your driving licence. Police have also been known to seize e-scooters.
There have been previous cases in the news where driving a private e-scooter with no licence or MOT has led to a fine of up to £1,000 and between three and six penalty points. For new drivers of less than two years, this could mean losing your licence.
As with using any other motor vehicle, knowing the law and taking the necessary safety precautions is essential.
If you have been injured as a result of an accident involving an e-scooter, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Our personal injury solicitors act for victims of road traffic accidents throughout the UK from our six offices in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.