The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recently published their final report 'The Safety of Private E-Scooters in the UK' (the full report can be read here). This a particularly timely and sobering read in light of the tragic accident this week, in which a young teenager has died whilst riding an e-scooter.
Having carried out research into the type of accident, and the severity of injuries suffered by e-scooters users themselves and other road users (both vehicles and pedestrians), the report clarifies what many of us may have already thought. In that, the current situation, whereby the use of private e-scooters is simply illegal, is extremely unsatisfactory. Despite being illegal, the report estimates that some 750,000 private e-scooters may already be being used in public roads, and it is generally accepted that they are a popular and effective low-carbon transport solution for many, particularly in urban areas. Police forces across the country are struggling with the challenges of trying to prevent harm and police the use of private scooters within their enforcement powers and available resources.
Having completed their report, PACTS have made a number of recommendations to the Department of Transport on how it should proceed, with the main focus being that immediate action is needed in the form of a thorough public consultation and further research, before any final decision is made on the legalisation of e-scooters. If, and only if, the Government then decides that legalisation is appropriate, PACTS have made specific recommendations for the construction and use of private e-scooters on public roads.
One of the most interesting conclusions of the report is that, due to their design, private e-scooters differ greatly from pedal cycles, and therefore should not be legally classified in the same way. E-scooters are propelled entirely by electric power and have much smaller wheels than bicycles. Also, the rider’s centre of gravity is located further forward, and the severity of head injuries is greater. As part of their investigations, PACTS reviewed academic studies examining the stability of e-scooters through controlled crash-testing and computational modelling, with results showing that instabilities caused by an e-scooter’s design pose a risk to riders. This supplements evidence from injury reports into the nature of e-scooter riders’ falls and the large numbers of single vehicle collisions which are recorded, indicating that a significant risk of injury from private e-scooters comes from their design and user error, as opposed to other vehicles.
To address these specific issues, PACTS recommendations include specifying the minimum wheel sizes for private e-scooters, giving them a maximum possible speed and making helmet wearing mandatory.
As a Personal Injury practitioner, I am glad to see the sensible recommendations made by PACTS in this report, and hope that progress can be made. In the meantime, it is up to us as individuals to remember that however convenient or fun it may be to ride a private e-scooter, it remains illegal to do so on public roads and pavements. These machines are not toys and clearly present significant and specific risks to unwary or careless users, before you even take into consideration a rider’s vulnerability to larger vehicles on the road.
For more information about your rights and how we can help if you are injured due to the use of an e-scooter, please visit our webpage here.
There is general agreement that the existing situation is unsatisfactory. The unsafe nature of some private e-scooters, and irresponsible use by some, is leading to serious casualties and risks harming efforts by rental operators and local authorities seeking to provide a safe, lowcarbon mobility option.