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Report backs national regulation for mobility scooters


A parliamentary committee has recommended that federal road and transport agencies start researching the implementation of a regulatory system in which people who use mobility scooters are subject to licensing, registration and insurance.

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee looked into the safety and regulation of mobility scooters following the deaths of 129 scooter users and three pedestrians between 2000-2017, and the hospitalisation of 350 older mobility scooter drivers a year based on data from 2006-2009.

The report, tabled in parliament yesterday, calls for funding for research and consultation to “inform the establishment of a nationally consistent regulatory framework for motorised mobility devices” including “simple and low-cost licensing and registration arrangements, as well as third party insurance”.

People who use the electric vehicles in Australia currently don’t require a licence, insurance or health checks to be allowed behind the wheel.

The committee noted in its report that mobility scooters have become increasingly important to older Australians, as well many younger people with disabilities, because they can provide access to the local community that is otherwise denied to them.

Number of mobility devices expected to increase

According to the peak organisation for Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, Austroads, there are currently more than 156, 000 motorised mobility devices in use across Australia.

Australia’s ageing population, and the roll-out of the NDIS, means there is likely to be a significant increase in this number over the coming years, Austroads says.

“As Australia’s population ages, the ability for older people to remain mobile, and retain both their independence and connections with the community will become increasingly more important,” the report says.

“Motorised mobility devices have become one way older Australians, and those with a disability are able to access services and maintain their links with the community.

“They provide a relatively inexpensive way for people to maintain their quality of life and enhance their overall health and wellbeing, and their feeling of social inclusion.”

Safety concerns

However the committee said it had also received a number of submissions raising concerns about accidents and near-misses as well as incidents where the devices had been driven at inappropriately high speeds or by people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“To counter such misuse, a number of stakeholders argued that mobility devices should be licensed, registered and appropriately insured,” the report said.

Monash University’s department of forensic medicine said in its submission that the widespread use of motorised mobility devices first became evident twenty years ago and the first reports of serious safety concerns started to arise in 2006.

Despite this, data was patchy and there were many regulatory shortfalls.

“Strategies are needed to decrease rider injuries associated with MMS whilst meeting community mobility needs,” it said.

Discrimination fears

The consumer group COTA expressed concern that the committee’s recommendations might “inadvertently inhibit older Australians from moving about freely. COTA said developing age-friendly cities and policies that enhanced social inclusion and healthy ageing should be considered before changes to policy and regulation.

Occupational Therapy Australia warned that if increased regulation disadvantaged people with limited mobility or disabilities it could be in breach of national anti-discrimination laws.

“The issue of mobility scooter usage should be considered part of an urgent broader government approach to improving transport options … and providing accessible environments for all Australians, particularly those in rural and regional locations, and as our population ages,” the professional association said.

The committee concluded that it was of the view that mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs were of significant benefit to many in the community, including older people and people with a disability, in terms of allowing them to remain engaged and independent.

“Any future regulation of mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs needs to be evidence-based and must recognise the importance of safety – of users and others – but not add any additional barriers or make access and inclusion any more difficult for a frequently marginalised section of our community,” they said.

You can read the committee’s report here.

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5 Responses to Report backs national regulation for mobility scooters

  1. Bill Peacock OAM September 27, 2018 at 5:56 pm #

    I am very concerned that Mobility scooters amd Motorised Wheelchairs are placed as one category. Many of us live in a motorised wheelchair inside and out without any weight bearing or access to transfers once up and mobile. Mobile Scooter users are often people with only a limited mobility and are using the mobility scooter as a mode of transport only as if it was a motor vehicle.
    Aged care and Disability are very seperate issues. The statements by some of the contributors representing the Aged Care environment have no respect or knowledge of the person with a disability confined to a motorised wheelchair.

  2. Val September 29, 2018 at 5:59 pm #

    About time for reform. These scooters are sold as an alternative to cars!

    Many users of scooters are so impaired visually and reaction time that they become a hazard to toher pedestrians and road users.

  3. Rouve October 3, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

    In virtually every country except Australia, those with disability are treated with respect. The Monash University study shows that motorists in Australia have no regard for the disabled. The majority of accidents in this report were disabled being injured or killed by motorists. Even in 40 k zones how can a mobility scooter travelling at 8-10k be at fault!! If a woman with a pram was walking at a fast 8 k across the road with a baby pram, they would not be blamed for “colliding” with a truck! This is discrimination. In Canada people with disability using technical assistive equipment including mobility scooters have right of way, the same as any other pedestrian. Many rural pathways in Australia are inaccessible and have dangerous slopes and obstacles.

  4. Rouve Forbes October 3, 2018 at 9:01 pm #

    UP to 200 children are injured in pram accidents each year in Queensland, statistics show.
    The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit revealed children who have not been strapped in are being catapulted out of overloaded prams.

    Dr Mike Shepherd, a clinician at the unit and a Mater Hospital emergency pediatrician, says pram brakes are also being ignored by parents,

    So why are mobility scooters such an issue? Will Australia also impose licensing, insurance and educational programs for these mothers and fathers?

  5. Barry October 5, 2018 at 9:48 am #

    I am a health professional who has worked in the community for almost 20 years, I have no issues with people who rely on electric wheelchairs as they tend to be well versed in moving around the community and other people.

    My issue is with people who get a mobility scooter as a replacement for a car, a mobility scooter doesn’t replace your car it replaces your legs.

    Every day I see people on the footpaths on mobility scooters travelling at 8-10 km per hour weaving around pedestrians then driving them into shops and businesses instead of leaving them outside and walking in. I know of a number of people in the community where I live and work who will openly tell you they use a mobility scooter as it is much cheaper than running a car.

    The newer mobility scooters are a large piece of machinery weighing around 100kg, travelling at 10km per hour with a turning circle of up to 2 meters and anyone can go and buy one, jump on and away you go.

    I think a licensing system and set speed limits on mobility scooters is well over due, along with insurance to cover damages which may occur.

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