Government urged to “get a grip” on dangerous and illegal e-scooters

The independent Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety is calling on the UK Government to act decisively on the growing problems of unsafe and illegal e-scooter use. 

In a new report it points out that 15 people have now died while illegal use of private e-scooters, eleven of them in 2021 alone. Furthermore in a fifth of crashes it wasn’t just the scooter rider who was involved, with other road users being injured, 75% of these pedestrians.

38% of people injured in a collision involving an e-scooter suffered serious injuries – mostly the rider, and of those, 68% suffered head injuries or fractures. 29% of casualties involving an e-scooter are aged 10 to 19 years old, 27% are aged 19 to 29 years old, 78% are male and 82% involve a private e-scooter. Hospital data shows nearly 70% fall from the e-scooter without colliding with another vehicle or object.

PACTS further points out that results of academic studies show that instabilities caused by an e-scooter’s design poses a risk to riders. It also notes that European legislation is evolving, increasing regulations on e-scooter use, including speed limits and helmets. 

The report, The safety of private e-scooters in the UK, calls on the Department for Transport to take immediate action to address dangerous and illegal private e-scooter use; undertake a thorough public consultation before making any decision on the legalisation of e-scooters;  publish the information on the trials, and undertake further research; and act against irresponsible retailers and support the police.

It also comments on authorised rental schemes, involving 23,000 e-scooters in 31 areas, which have operated in England since July 2020. These trials are intended to provide evidence for new legislation. It says, no information has been published and the government seems undecided on next steps. “Any regulations to legalise e-scooters will take at least a year to have any effect,” it says. 

The overwhelming growth has been in private e-scooters. More than 1 million have been imported to the UK since 2019. While they can legally be sold, they are illegal to use on public roads and in public spaces. 

PACTS has collated records from the police, insurers and media for casualties involving e-scooters in 2021 This shows almost 900 casualties, with 20% involving injuries to pedestrians and cyclists. Hospitals are treating increasing numbers of casualties with severe head injuries. The casualty numbers appear high in relation to the distance travelled. 

“If the Government decides to legalise use of private e-scooters, it should adopt the 14 safety regulations for their construction and use recommended by PACTS,” it says. These include a maximum speed limit of 12.5mph and mandatory helmets. They are based on international research, records of real-life collisions, crash-testing and computer modelling, and are endorsed by experts in the NHS, police, legal profession, head injury charities and road safety.

The report, funded by The Road Safety Trust, shows that in vital respects e-scooters are different from pedal cycles and should be assessed and regulated based on their own attributes.

David Davies, PACTS Executive Director, said: “e-scooters are a controversial issue and risks to riders and pedestrians are increasingly apparent. The Government should act now to curb dangerous and illegal use. Even if the Government decides on the way forward soon, legislation will not take effect until sometime next year. They should take this opportunity to gather evidence and consult widely – something which should have happened before the rental trials started but was curtailed by the pandemic.”

The full report, The safety of private e-scooters in the UK is available here.

(Picture – Met Police)

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