Since the introduction of e-scooter trials in selected cities across the UK earlier this year, questions have been raised about their safety for riders and indeed other road users. If introduced onto our roads successfully, e-scooters could offer a range of benefits such as providing a covid-secure commuting alternative and a reduction in greenhouses gases. However, before we can embrace micromobility vehicles en masse, we must also address the significant safety concerns which they present.
Arguably, one of the most immediate dangers of e-scooters is the fact that many of these vehicles are inaudible to pedestrians and other road users. The Thomas Pocklington Trust, a charity for blind and partially sighted people, has highlighted the danger of these quiet micromobility vehicles for those who cannot rely on sight to assess oncoming traffic or hazards.
The e-scooter trial stipulates that the rental vehicles can only be used in low-speed roads or cycle lanes within trial areas and should not be used on the pavement. However, councils across the UK have already identified numerous incidents of people flouting the rules and putting road users at risk.
In addition to the crash risk posed by micromobility vehicles approaching pedestrians at speed almost silently, the absence of sound also makes it difficult for pedestrians to gauge the speed and distance of the vehicles when crossing the road, which could lead to serious accidents. The Thomas Pocklington Trust has rightly stressed the importance of fitting these vehicles with artificial noise alerts and will be producing research for manufacturers into which ones work best.
Whilst reports that e-scooter manufacturers are likely to fit noise devices into all of their models next year are positive, this has not been legislated on and we are yet to see a confirmed date when this will happen. A greater sense of urgency is needed when it comes to improving the safety of the e-scooter trial, as the injury risk for e-scooter riders, pedestrians and other road users is severe with the potential to have lifelong implications. The Major Trauma Group is calling for all rental e-scooters to be taken off the roads until they are fitted with sound devices to mitigate the significant injury risk posed by them being largely inaudible.
However, it is worth noting that e-scooter safety should go beyond just fitting vehicles with artificial noise devices. The Government must also seriously consider the introduction of mandatory helmets and clear regulations on insurance to protect riders and other road users. Micromobility vehicles have the potential to change the way we travel for the better, but only if they are introduced safely and with all necessary regulations in place.
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