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As mobility scooter sales rocket, should training be compulsory?

mobility scooter trainingThe volume of mobility scooters on the paths and pavements of the UK has quadrupled in four years, raising fears for the safety of elderly and ailing users, many of whom are untrained.

In 2007, there were 70,000 mobility scooters in the UK. According to the British Healthcare Trades Association, the number of mobility scooters reached 300,000 in 2012. Sales are now running at 80,000 per annum as the elderly live longer and more young people contract lifestyle-related disabilities like obesity.

In an interesting Nottingham Post article, Jeremy Lewis recently reported on a mobility scooter driving school in Nottinghamshire, one of a series of free courses run by Nottinghamshire County Council at Beeston, Mansfield and Retford.
The mobility scooter training course commenced with a presentation from Sue Brown and Ruth Havers, of the Disabilities Living Centre, and continued with a DVD featuring actress Sheila Reid, who stars in the TV comedy “Benidorm” as mobility scooter user Madge Harvey.

The Disabilities Living Centre DVD film projected the important basics: Class 2 mobility scooters (maximum speed 4mph) and Class 3 models (4mph pavements, 8mph roads) may have only small electric motors but they are potentially dangerous; follow the Highway Code; insurance is not compulsory but third-party cover is recommended; use bright clothing to be seen; Class 3s must be DVLA-registered; dealer training, advice and aftercare amount to a better bet than a second-hand purchase.

The Nottinghamshire County Council’schairman of community safety, Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, explained to the Nottigham Post that the Council is gravely concerned about the implications of the growth in mobility scooter ownership and use: “We have introduced these courses because mobility scooters seem to be a growth area, and secondly because scooters are sometimes being sold to people they are unsuitable for. People who have never ridden a bike or driven a car may see a scooter as an aid but they may not understand some of the difficulties.”

The use of mobility scooters is largely unregulated. Yes, there is an obligation to observe the Highway Code but there is no test of competence at the controls; of the ability to progress safely on pavement or carriageway; nor is there any requirement of insurance. Compulsory testing and licensing may seem a little heavy-handed but there is surely a case for steering first-time buyers towards the sort of introductory safety courses, such as the ones being organised by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Is there an argument for greater regulation, such as mandatory training for mobility scooter users? And should not third-party insurance be compulsory? Let us know your thoughts & opinions in the Reply Box below.

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