NOWHERE in Europe has embraced mobility scooters quite like Britain.
We are the continent’s mobility scooter capital, with more than 250,000 on our streets and pavements.
They have been hailed as a boon to elderly and disabled, giving them independence they would be otherwise denied. However, all is not sweetness and light.
A series of accidents involving mobility scooters, which have left pedestrians with life changing injuries, has led to a growing feeling that the law surrounding their use should be tightened.
Campaigners have called for mobility scooter drivers to have to pass a test of their skills and be insured before they can take to the road. Those demands have been renewed in the wake of more accidents in Hampshire.
The Daily Echo reported how last Saturday a 94-year-old woman was knocked over in Romsey town centre by a scooter driver who did not stop to help her. She was left with cuts and bruises.
Earlier this year Susan Daniels was left with severe injuries after she was hit by a scooter driver in the New Forest.
She suffered a fractured knee and a ruptured tendon in her left arm after an 88-year-old man crashed into her in Station Road, New Milton.
The 69-year-old now finds it difficult to get around due to her injuries and she called for the law to be changed to stop people buying scooters without tax or insurance.
She has won some support from charities, organisations and even scooter drivers for her proposals.
James Dooley, director at the Mobility Bureau, a company which provides support and scooters to charities, said: “I think there should be a law change – it is all very loose at the moment.
“There’s a proper procedure to buying scooters and users should have an assessment done by an independent occupational therapist to ensure you are fit to use one. But the Internet has changed that.”
Kevin Fry, owner of Hampshire Mobility Services, in Romsey, carries out assessments for anyone that wants to drive a scooter but agrees that, because people can buy the vehicles over the Internet now, there is no assessment done to ensure people are able to drive them. He said: “I think there should be some kind of onus on manufacturers not to supply to people who buy on the Internet. Maybe there should be some kind of curb or protocol.”
There is broad agreement on making tests compulsory from scooter users themselves. Roy Jennings, from Freemantle, Southampton, said: “Although I don’t agree with training or testing in the Government way of thinking, I do agree that users should have some proper training given by the supplier before use, so they are aware of the laws and rules regarding using the fast machines on the pavement and within shops.”
But it may be a while before any change takes place.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We have no plans to introduce mandatory requirements for insurance cover, driver training or for registration of mobility vehicles because we have no firm evidence that their use is causing a major public safety problem.
“However, police forces have begun to record in their road casualty statistics whether a mobility vehicle has been involved in an accident on the public highway. This will, in time, give us a clearer picture.
“The department is working to obtain data on this issue from all forces by 2015.”