Guide to using mobility scooters
A highway code for users
Why should we have a highway code for electric scooters?
When in charge of a car you are in charge of a potentially lethal weapon". - To claim a scooter or wheelchair falls into the same category would be a bit dramatic, but it is still possible to do considerable damage to yourself and others.
Which Highway Code category do scooters come into?
The categories of road users in the Highway Code are pedestrians, cyclists, motor cyclists, and motorists. As a wheelchair / scooter users you do not really fit any of these categories. You may however partly fit into all of them.
Road or footpath?
Some scooters can only be driven safely on the footpath, except for crossing roads. Others are designed so that they can be driven safely on the road. This does not necessarily make it SAFE to do so. To drive safely on the road it is advisable to have a vehicle capable of doing 6/8 miles an hour, equipped with headlights, rear lights, flashing indicators, and a horn. Even with all this you must not use dual carriageways, bus lanes or cycle tracks.
Under no circumstances is it permissible for scooters to be driven on motorways.
General points to consider before buying your vehicle:
Make sure you are able and fit to use it safely.
It is usually possible to get advice through your local social services or occupational health service. You need to be able to:
- See well enough to be safe
- Adequately control your vehicle and do all the possible manoeuvres, such as reversing, climbing and descending kerbs, and turning safely.
- Cross busy roads.
- Know the rules of safety and consideration for yourself and other people.
At present there is no overall legal obligation to insure mobility scooters, though some finance companies insist on it. Nevertheless it is a very good idea to make sure you are covered for fire and theft, accidental, malicious, and third party damages just incase.
Comfort and safety
Make sure your vehicle is the right one for you. Get advice when choosing and watch for things like seat and handle positions and height. It is important that you are comfortable and in full control of your vehicle. The reasons for choosing three and four wheels are varied, and depend on many factors such as your weight, size and height, weight of chair for lifting and quality of your roads.
The manufacturer's literature will tell you the range of your vehicle but remember this is a guide only. Generally the range is determined when the scooter is driven on the level on a smooth surface and when the batteries are new. Few people would want to drive round a car park for 20-25 miles! Rough surfaces, hills, gradients, cold weather, kerbs and carrying a load of shopping will all reduce the distance you can do without charging your batteries. Recharge your batteries according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Do not be too ambitious where distance is concerned.
General points to consider when you're out and about
Consider investing in a mobile phone
Some service providers will provide a special low rate for occasional users who need the phone for possible emergencies, the last thing you want is to be broken down and stranded without a means of contact.
On the footpath the limit is 4mph (6.4 kph) whatever the capacity of your vehicle. On the road it is 8mph (12.6 kph). If driving a class 3 (road) vehicle on the pavement it must be restricted to 4 mph mode.
Do not overload. It may make the vehicle unstable and reduce its range. Place heavy loads inboard - in the middle - not behind the back wheel which can lighten the steering or can cause the front end to lift off the road on a bump, and not at the front which might make the steering heavy.
Watch your brakes
Never try to drive, or sit on your vehicle when it is in 'freewheel'. The electronic brake will be out of action and the vehicle could run away with you.
Do get your vehicle serviced regularly as per the manufacturer's advice.
Keep tyres at the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. They will last longer and be safer. Replace when they become worn. Under inflated tyres will reduce the distance you can travel per charge.
Check bulbs regularly and replace when needed, use your lights frequently, at dusk onwards or on a dull and rainy day.
Sensible guidelines for safety
When using the footpath
Just because you are on a footpath or pedestrian precinct does not make you a pedestrian. If you are on a motorized vehicle you are no longer a pedestrian.
Remember pedestrians have the right of way!
Many people will be kind and helpful to the drivers of a wheelchair / scooter. But not everyone! In a crowded precinct or market area, or on a footpath, it is your responsibility that you do not run into anyone or do any harm with your vehicle. While many people will make way for you, you cannot expect everyone to do so. Some will appear not even to realize you are there. They will climb round and even over your vehicle rather than ask you to move.
Do not yield to the temptation to ram them!
When climbing or descending kerbs
Always approach at right angles, with your front wheels straight onto the kerb. In some powerchairs it is necessary to descend high kerbs backwards. Do not try to climb or descend kerbs higher than the manufacturer recommends. Move carefully, to avoid traumatic bumps - to yourself or to your vehicle.
Watch out for
They may well run in front of you without warning. You may only be moving very slowly, but you could still injure a child.
- Elderly people:
They may be unable to move aside quickly to let you pass. Give way to them.
- Disabled people on foot:
They too may be unable to dodge you.
- People with visual problems or impaired hearing:
Give them space and time
- Other motorized vehicle users:
You may be doing the right things. This does not guarantee they will do likewise.
When you need help
You may need to ask people to open doors for you, most people are willing to help, if asked politely. Don't struggle to do the impossible when there are people around who would help if asked.
Driving in shops and buildings
This is where you have the advantage over cars! Not many supermarkets would welcome a car driving round their store. But most bigger shops, and some small ones, are accessible to wheelchairs and scooters. Once inside the store it is your responsibility to drive safely and not damage the fittings, the stock, or hurt other shoppers or store workers. You may need to ask for help. Again in most cases people are willing to help if asked properly. Don't risk the pulling down a whole display to reach the top shelf. Ask for help.
Speed in shops and buildings - reduce it!
It is a good idea to set the speed control to a lower level to avoid any accident. Be especially careful if you need to reverse, that your way is clear of shop fittings and people. Three wheeled scooters with their manoeuvrability and lightness of steering are more suited to shopping.
On the road
Remember you are not driving a car, but a very slow small vehicle, which is therefore more vulnerable. If it is possible use the footpath. It is wise to avoid using roads, particularly busy ones.
General points to consider when driving your vehicle on the road.
Remember, although this is legal for all vehicles, it is not always safe or sensible to do so. You are responsible for your own safety and that of other road users. The normal rules of the road apply - but modified.
You must observe the law about:
- Driving on the left side of the road. Never drive against the traffic.
- One way streets - never drive against the traffic
- Giving way where cars would give way (details in the Highway Code).
- Obeying traffic lights and all other road signals and instructions.
- Giving way to pedestrians on crossings.
But always remember your vehicle is not a car and is small and vulnerable.
If you need to turn right across traffic:
Try to get on the footpath before the turn, and use a safe pedestrian crossing, or traffic light controlled crossing. Only try to turn right if you are completely sure it is safe to do so. Do not rely on your mirror. It may give a false impression of distance. Always give clear indication of intention to turn left or right.
The car you can see when you look behind may appear a long way away, but it is almost certainly moving faster than you are - often deceptively so. It could well be upon you before you complete your manoeuvre. And it may not stop in time.
When passing a parked vehicle
Take great care you are not moving into the path of a faster moving vehicle coming behind you, or towards you. Always signal your intention to pull out and do not do so unless it is safe.
In the event of a difficult or dangerous situation use your hazard lights but do not drive with them on unnecessarily.
Added 4 years ago, last modified