Are e-scooters legal to drive on public roads, and can I get insurance?
Electric scooters (or e-scooters) are becoming more and more popular across the UK as a form of transport. The e-scooter has taken its name from the traditional two-wheeled push scooter and an electric battery powered motor has been installed.
E-scooters do not currently have to be registered or display registration plates like other legal motor vehicles. If they’re to be made legal outside the governments trials, it may be required that the e-scooters are registered, taxed and comply with safety standards such as an MOT which is likely to present challenges for the users.
Other than within the government's rented e-scooter trials that are taking place in several places around the UK and that were recently extended until November 2022, they are currently illegal to drive on any public road, pavement or cycle lane and can only be used on private land with the landowner's consent.
E-scooters are still proving popular despite their current restrictions on where they can be used legally, with major retailers such as Halfords stocking a range of models, starting from around £125.
What is the government's trial on e-scooters?
Rules apply for rental e-scooters only and rules against private e-scooters have not changed. Trial areas are across the UK, from Bournemouth to Newcastle (A full list of trial areas can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-users). The maximum speed for an e-scooter in these trials are limited to 15.5mph. To be eligible for these trials, you need to at least have a provisional driving licence. E-scooters used in the trial must have motor insurance, and helmets are recommended. The trials only allow the e-scooter to be ridden on the roads and you must not use them on a pavement.
What are the biggest risks and unknowns for insurers?
The majority of e-scooters can hit speeds of 20 miles per hour and some are known to travel at speeds of over 50 miles per hour. As someone who has tried it themselves, speed exceeding 10mph can feel incredibly fast. As its not a legal requirement to wear safety equipment, and the speed at which e-scooters can travel, they are a potentially dangerous mode of transport for the user and for an incident involving third parties.
E-scooters are incredibly quiet while in use which comes with an increased risk of personal injury to pedestrians, with individuals who suffer from sight or hearing loss at further risk. E-scooters are predicted to be involved in up to 200,000 incidents by the end of the year, according to research by dashcam company Nextbase. Pedestrians stepping out into the road being unaware an e-scooter user is approaching being common incident circumstances and causing personal injury at relatively low speed.
If you are injured by a e-scooter that was rented as part of the government backed trials, the company that rents out the e-scooter should have insurance and any claim should be pursued through their insurance provider. If you're injured by a privately-owned e-scooter, the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) may be able to help you recover compensation at the time of writing this article.
Insurance companies hate the unknown and - similar to travel insurance companies dealing with COVID-19 - there is not enough data to fully understand the risk and set the prices for insurance policies that will provide consumers with protection.
What about insurance?
One of the ways in which you can get insurance at relative low cost is adding the item onto your home insurance policy. This is only likely to cover you against fire and theft and not while the e-scooter is in use. It's important to remember that insurance companies have limits for single items (specified and unspecified) so make sure you check with the insurance provider.
Insurance providers are likely to wait until (or if) e-scooters become legal to ride outside of these trials. Once they become a legal form of transport, and the consumer demand is still there, insurers will quickly respond and look to offer coverage.
What is the future for e-scooters?
It's incredibly difficult to anticipate what the future holds for the e-scooter and a lot will come down to how the government trials perform. Their popularity is proven by the amount of TV adverts for them, especially as we approach Christmas. The e-scooters could be a eco friendly mode of micro-mobility transport, as it offers cleaner, lower carbon alternative to cars, this along with consumer demand could mean it is only a matter of time. Ste and I will be keeping our fingers on the pulse with how e-scooters play out so please check back in with us, as we will continue to update our articles to make sure they're up to date.