Over the past decade there has been a big increase in the use of mobility scooters in the UK, helping people get around more easily and in some cases providing a lifeline to people who might otherwise be virtually housebound.
More competition in the mobility scooter market has seen prices come down, while there is also a booming secondhand market. Demand has also risen, with people living longer but keen to maintain their independence despite the onset of mobility challenges.
Much of the stigma surrounding mobility scooters has faded, with more people using them as a ‘lifestyle choice’ rather than a ‘last resort’ necessity. The scooters themselves have improved both in performance and looks, with better, more reliable battery power and attractive designs. They come in everything from large four-wheelers with off-road capability to small lightweight fold-up designs which can be easily transported in the back of a car.
It all means there are many more mobility scooters on the streets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the training required to drive one. Quite simply, there isn’t any. You don’t need a licence to drive a mobility scooter and you don’t need to pass a test before taking to the pavements or roads. That could be good news for users, but a number of serious and even fatal accidents involving mobility scooters have led to growing calls for some type of formal training.
At the moment, the only ‘training’ you might receive could be a quick run-through at the mobility shop where you buy the scooter, but if you buy one secondhand you might not even get that. In some areas, councils and even police forces have set up their own training courses, usually lasting about half-a-day, but these are voluntary rather than compulsory.
Let’s look in more detail at mobility scooters, which come in two categories both officially termed, in a rather outdated way, as ‘invalid carriages’:
- ‘Class 2 invalid carriages’ have a maximum speed of 4mph and cannot be used on the road, except where there is no pavement. These are usually the smaller-type mobility scooters.
- ‘Class 3 invalid carriages’ can be used on the road and usually have two speed settings – a maximum speed of 4mph off the road and 8mph on it. These are usually larger scooters.
You have to be at least 14 to use a class 3 scooter and (unlike class 2 models) they must be registered with the DVLA, although you don’t have to pay any vehicle tax. You can find full details about the rules relating to mobility scooters (including how to register class 3 models) by clicking here to visit the relevant government website.
It also sets out brief rules for driving on the road or on footpaths and pedestrian areas, and for parking a mobility scooter. It adds that while there is no legal eyesight requirement to drive a mobility scooter, you should be able to read a car’s registration plate from 40 feet away. Similarly, it recommends that you get insurance to drive a mobility scooter in case of accidents, but again this is not a legal requirement.
In short, there are lots of things you should do to drive a mobility scooter, but very few you must do and almost none you will be tested on. With more and more people now using them, it is perhaps inevitable that the rules surrounding their use will become more formalised.
For example, it’s only common sense to have some insurance if you are driving a mobility scooter in a busy pedestrian area. What if you accidentally bump into someone and they are injured? Likewise, it makes sense to get some basic training in driving a mobility scooter, especially if you intend to use a class 3 model on potentially busy roads. As well as basic handling skills, you’ll learn things like the correct way to mount a kerb so your mobility scooter won’t tip over.
Many areas now offer training courses for mobility scooter users, usually at a low cost or even free, depending on who the provider is. The best way to find out if there’s a course near to you is to start with your local council, or search online for ‘mobility scooter training course’. While there is currently no legal requirement to take such a course, it’s a wise investment of your time and perhaps a little money to improve your skills, confidence and personal safety.
Many people in the mobility industry predict it’s only a matter of time before some level of formal training, or even a driving test, becomes compulsory for people using mobility scooters.