Uk shoppers have been urged not to give e-scooters as presents this year amid fears over their safety and legality.
The electric vehicles have become increasingly popular and many major retailers are marketing them as an ideal Christmas gift but legal and safety experts have warned the devices could land users in trouble with the law or in hospital.
Jonathan White, legal and compliance director for National Accident Helpline said that the rising numbers of “unsafe” e-scooters was a major cause for concern and highlighted the soaring number of accidents involving the devices as he warned against families giving them as presents.
Government figures show that there were at least 1,349 collisions involving e-scooters in England and Wales in the year up to June 2022, compared to 978 in the previous 12 months. Among those 12 were fatal crashes, with 11 scooter rides and one pedestrian killed in collisions - a sharp increase from the 4 fatalities in 2021. The number of serious injuries also almost doubled in the same period. However, the Department for Transport warned the figures could be even higher as several police forces were unable to provide full data.
Mr White said: “Whilst the intention behind e-scooters was to offer an alternative to public transport and ‘greener’ option than cars, the increased use of private e-scooters is causing a sharp increase in road traffic incidents and injuries to pedestrians. Not only does the lack of regulation around private e-scooters cause concern but the silent nature of the vehicles means pedestrians crossing roads are very vulnerable to accidents.”
Legal experts have also warned that using e-scooters on public roads and pavements is against the law and could result in brand-new presents being confiscated and destroyed by police this winter. Riders could also be fined and have penalty points added to their driving licence.
Personal injury and regulatory barrister Lucy Coulson commented: “Many parents may see splashing out on an e-scooter as the ideal gift option this Christmas but if you choose to purchase an e-scooter as a gift this Christmas, you must ensure that it is only used on private land with the explicit permission from the owner. It is against the law to use it on public roads or paths, no matter if it’s a residential area or a major city.”
Many UK cities are currently running trials of e-scooters but the devices in these trials are registered and insured for use on roads and cycle paths and require riders to be over the age of 18 and hold at least a provisional driving licence. These scooters are also fitted with lights and restricted to 15.5mph, while privately bought ones don’t have to have lights and often boast speeds up to twice that. Some even claim to reach speeds of up to 70mph.
Mr White also warned there were other concerns around the safety of the batteries in some e-scooters. He said: “E-scooters are fitted with lithium-ion batteries, which are highly prone to catching fire if damaged or charged incorrectly, meaning they pose a serious fire hazard. In fact, e-scooter battery fires have been reported on public transport, in domestic properties and operators’ warehouses.
“While all e-scooters should be sold with a warning of the fire risks associated with the vehicles, with private e-scooters which are not regulated, tampering is prevalent and batteries are at a greater risk of water ingress and damage.”