Reckless Riding: Illegally Operated E-Scooters Contribute to Over Half of Collision Casualties, Prompting Urgent Calls for Stringent Regulation
Government data has unveiled a troubling reality: more than half of all e-scooter casualties stem from the illicit use of these electric vehicles. The alarming findings have ignited fervent calls from road safety advocates for an immediate crackdown on what they describe as the 'wild west misuse' of privately owned e-scooters.
In the United Kingdom, e-scooters can be categorized into two groups: those integrated into official rental schemes and those privately purchased. While it is legally permissible for individuals to rent and ride e-scooters from authorized services, operating a privately owned e-scooter in any public space, including roads and pavements, remains illegal. This ban extends to designated trial zones but is seldom enforced, allowing an estimated 750,000 private e-scooters to circulate throughout the UK.
Recent figures released by the Department for Transport shed light on the scale of the issue. In the 12 months leading up to June 2023, out of 1,080 e-scooter-related casualties, a staggering 556 were attributed to privately owned scooters being used outside designated trial areas. Within trial zones, 524 collisions were reported, with 68 involving private scooters and 337 cases where the type of vehicle was unknown.
Nicholas Lyes, IAM RoadSmart's Director of Policy and Standards, expressed concern over the 'wild west' nature of e-scooter misuse on roads and pavements. Lyes urged the government to expedite legislation on private e-scooters, emphasizing the need for minimum device standards, speed limiters, and prerequisites for riders' competency.
These revelations coincide with research by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), which identified 27 out of 31 collisions resulting in fatalities linked to illegal private e-scooters. Despite a decrease in fatalities from 11 to 7 in the 12 months up to June 2023, PACTS suggests that nearly all fatal incidents involved illegal private scooters.
Of the 1,355 e-scooter-related casualties recorded last year, 1,077 affected e-scooter users, while 181 involved pedestrians, including 50 cases with serious injuries. One victim, Lucinda Stafford-Deitsch, shared her experience with The Telegraph, recounting a broken elbow sustained after being struck by an illegal e-scooter that disregarded a red light in Kensington.
The concerning statistics underscore the pressing need for comprehensive regulatory measures to curb the rising tide of accidents stemming from illegally operated e-scooters.
The aftermath of the incident left Ms. Stafford-Deitsch grappling with the physical and emotional toll of surgery, coupled with twice-weekly physiotherapy sessions. Moments of daily life, from cooking to driving and caring for her grandchildren, were disrupted due to the lasting impact of the encounter with an illegal e-scooter. In a candid conversation with The Telegraph, she emphasized the urgent need for enhanced public awareness about the illegality of private scooters, urging law enforcement to take more decisive action against rogue riders. For Ms. Stafford-Deitsch, the solution seems clear: an outright ban on e-scooters.
During her visit to Accident & Emergency (A&E), the nurses shared their frustration with the rising number of injuries caused by both bicyclists and scooter riders, either colliding with each other or posing threats to pedestrians. This echoes the sentiments expressed by Jamie Hassall, the Executive Director at PACTS, who highlighted the continuous upward trajectory of e-scooter-related deaths since 2019. From a 12-year-old rider to a 75-year-old, the demographics of victims reveal the widespread impact of illegal e-scooter use.
As a safety charity, PACTS proposes a set of regulations should private scooters become legal, including a 12.5mph speed limit, mandatory audible devices, and a minimum rider age of 16. Mr. Hassall encourages Coroners to leverage their powers by endorsing these recommendations and urging the government to take action. Parents are also advised not to allow their children to use e-scooters illegally, while highway authorities are encouraged to establish segregated routes for different road users, minimizing potential conflicts.
In response, a spokesperson from the Department for Transport stressed the ongoing illegality of riding private e-scooters on roads, cycle lanes, or pavements. Violators face significant penalties, including unlimited fines and disqualification from e-scooter use. The department emphasizes its commitment to safety, extending e-scooter trials to gather more evidence and expressing intentions to consult on potential regulations in the future, covering aspects such as minimum rider ages and maximum speeds.
In the wake of an unfortunate incident that left Ms. Stafford-Deitsch grappling with the physical and emotional aftermath of an encounter with an illegally ridden e-scooter, the urgent need for stricter regulations and heightened public awareness has come to the forefront. Her plea for increased education on the illegality of private scooters and a more proactive approach from law enforcement underscores the pressing need for a comprehensive solution.
As the safety charity PACTS highlights the alarming rise in e-scooter-related deaths, spanning age groups from a 12-year-old rider to a 75-year-old, the call for regulations gains urgency. PACTS recommends a set of stringent measures, including speed limits, audible devices, and age restrictions, should private scooters become legal. The organization's appeal to Coroners, parents, and highway authorities seeks a collaborative effort in advocating for safer e-scooter use.
The Department for Transport, while emphasizing the ongoing illegality of private e-scooter use and its commitment to safety, hints at potential future regulations. The extension of e-scooter trials and a promise to consult on various aspects, including rider ages and maximum speeds, indicate a willingness to address the challenges posed by the proliferation of e-scooters on UK roads.
As the dialogue around e-scooter safety continues, the intertwined narratives of personal tragedy, broader statistics, and regulatory considerations underscore the complex and multifaceted nature of the issue. Striking a balance between innovation, safety, and public awareness emerges as a crucial endeavor in navigating the evolving landscape of urban mobility.