Are electric scooters legal in the UK? When and where can you ride them and how dangerous are they?

Electric scooters have proven controversial
Electric scooters have proven controversial

The case is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving electric scooters, which once again raises questions about their legality and safety.

Are electric scooters illegal?

It is illegal to drive electric scooters on the sidewalk. (Photo: Getty Images / Andy Buchanan)

Electric scooters are not illegal in the UK and you can buy, sell and own one legally.

However, it is illegal to use an electric scooter in public unless it is rented as part of a test pattern.

Using an electric scooter on private land is legal, but for public use they are classified as electric carriers, which means electric scooters are covered by the same laws that govern the use of cars and other motor vehicles.

This means that it is illegal to use them on sidewalks, footpaths, bike paths and in pedestrian areas.

Electric scooter trials are taking place in 32 UK cities (Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)

To travel on public roads, they must comply with the same rules as cars, with license plates, indicators, taillights, taxes and insurance, but those currently on sale do not meet these conditions.

The only exception to these laws is government approved trials conducted in 32 cities across the UK.

Electric scooters rented under these programs can be used on roads and cycle paths and are insured by the operators. Scooters are limited to 15.5 mph, with lower limits enforced in some areas via geofencing. Private electric scooters are not covered by the tests and are still illegal to use in public.

Do i need a driver’s license to drive an electric scooter?

Yes. The test programs all require drivers to hold a UK driving license with a Q right.

A full or provisional license for categories AM, A or B includes a right for category Q. If you have one of these licenses, you can use an electric scooter.

Drivers with a license abroad can also use the test scooters as long as they have a full license that allows them to operate a small vehicle, such as a car or motorcycle.

What are the penalties for illegal use of an electric scooter?

Drivers caught illegally using an electric scooter face the same penalties as other law-breaking drivers.

These include fines of up to £ 300 and up to six penalty points on your driving license. Serious infractions can result in a driving ban and the police can impound your scooter as well.

Are electric scooters dangerous?

The London case is the latest in a growing list of incidents involving electric scooters and at least four people in the UK have died in electric scooter crashes.

In 2019, YouTuber Emily Hartridge became the first person to die in an accident while riding an electric scooter. The following year, Julian Thomas, 55, died after crashing into a parked car. In June 2021, 20-year-old Shakur Amoy Pinnock also died of injuries sustained after his electric scooter collided with a car. And in July, a 16-year-old was run over from his scooter and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Across the country, pedestrians have also been struck and injured, sometimes seriously by electric scooter drivers, and the National Federation of the Blind has warned that near-silent vehicles create “no-go zones” for the visually impaired.

The exact number of accidents and injuries associated with electric scooters is unclear, but Met police said they believed the number of incidents was underreported. In London, the number of reported crashes fell from four in 2018 to 32 in 2019.

According to an ITV survey Tonight program, there have been 1,100 complaints and 210 people have been injured in incidents involving electric scooters since testing began.

Transport for London compared bicycle and electric scooter injuries using data from the United States and concluded that the rate of serious injuries was about 100 times higher for electric scooter trips than for the cyclists.

The government’s advice for the current trials is that riders wear helmets, but there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

While rental scooters are limited to 15.5 mph, those on sale to the public can reach speeds of up to 50 mph.

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Nancy Owens

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