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Mobility Scooters: The New Menace of UK Roads

Updated October 2, 2013

Image source: womanist-musings.com

Mobility Scooters: The OAPs iPhone

It was once the case the vast majority of older persons would only succumb to using a mobility scooter if it was absolutely necessary, for fear of both appearing lazy and speeding up the ageing process.  Now though – at least within towns across the UK’s south coast – mobility scooters have become a symbol of status.

I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. If you ever visit the seaside towns of Worthing or Bognor Regis, you will see how “physically challenged”, aged 50+ individuals ride up and down the town together in the contraptions, like a pack of geriatric (but not particularly menacing) Hell’s Angels. They regularly stop outside of selected cafes and shops before entering and purchasing goods, often with the same ease as able-bodied folk.

Much like a teenager can secure ‘street cred’ simply though owning the latest Apple products, it is the OAPs-on-wheels in these coastal towns who are most popular (or perhaps that should be; notorious).

Those judged to be in genuine need of mobility aid receive a sum from the government, which can be put towards the cost of a scooter. They are not cheap to acquire though; prices for brand new carts start from around £500 and the best models can be exceed £3,000. Riding a shiny new one about the place then, indicates to other oldies the rider has a ‘”few bob” to their name. I have heard groups of grannies discussing this fact at great length. My mother  (who manages a Bognor charity shop) meanwhile has heard many admit they simply quit their battle to have an active lifestyle in old age, in exchange for the convenience of a scooter.

As unnecessary mobility scooter use increases amongst the mature generation, so does the number of road accidents involving the electric accessory.

R(Old) R(Age)

Most mobility scooters have a top speed of just 8 miles per hour, and so you would imagine they would be completely illegal on roads. This is not so however; although Class II scooters can be used on footways only (at a maximum speed of 4mph), class III’s can be used on roads at the maximum 8mph.

The differences between the two classes are detailed on the direct.gov.uk website, but are perhaps not clear enough for pensioners (and even if they are, arguably no mobility scooter is fit for use on the road!)

Screenshot from direct.gov.uk: differences between class II and III mobility scooters.

Here are summaries of just three road accident stories involving mobility scooters, which have appeared in the news recently:

  • Girl’s leg broken in mobility scooter crash (25/04/2012): A pensioner broke a nine year old girl’s leg after running her down with her mobility scooter, while yelling “I can’t control it, I shouldn’t have turned it on!”
  • Mobility scooter pensioner crushed by bus (24/06/2012): An elderly man died in hospital while he was being treated for injuries he sustained when he and his scooter collided with – and ended up underneath – the front of a bus.
  • Pensioner killed in Bedale mobility scooter accident (02/09/2010): An 81-year old suffered fatal injuries after his mobility scooter collided with a Ford Ka, after the pensioner turned a corner onto Bedale’s (North Yorks) Main Street.

Such accidents have caused outrage amongst motorists and pedestrians, many of which have called for tighter legislation around mobility scooter issue and use. One grandmother –Eileen Smith of Redruth – has even contacted Prime Minister David Cameron. She has pleaded driving tests be made mandatory for scooter use, after one ‘came out of nowhere’ and ran over her grandson’s legs during a picnic one day.

I have no problem with those in genuine need of mobility scooters using one, so long as it has been established they are able to operate one safely. Perhaps a test is the best way to determine this, but I think the questionable “road-worthiness” and near-silent operation of scooters are primary concerns – if these “vehicles” are not safe for motorway use then no one should be issued a piece of paper saying they can ride one on such!

 The author of this post – Kat Cole – has no plans to ever acquire a mobility scooter. She enjoys lengthy walks regularly, and leases a vehicle from Crusader Vans for particularly long-distance journeys.

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Calvin Escobar
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