Guide Dogs is advising the public to think twice before buying expensive e-scooters as festive gifts this Christmas. Though widely available to buy, using a privately-owned e-scooter on public roads is illegal and could land riders on the naughty list this Christmas, with a fine or points on their driving licence. We fear that not only are many members of the public buying e-scooters without the full information, but they also pose a danger to people with sight loss and others when misused. It’s against the law to use a privately-owned e-scooter on public land, including roads, pavements and pedestrianised areas. If caught in public, riders could face a £300 fine, up to six penalty points on their driving licence and even risk getting the e-scooter impounded. Riders can only use their own e-scooters on private land with permission from the land owner.
Since the summer, the government has approved year-long trials of e-scooter rental schemes in areas across England. Only e-scooters rented as part of the trials are legal for use on public roads – though their use on pavement remains banned. The concern from Guide Dogs comes as retailers are offering deals on e-scooters this festive period. Last month, Halfords reported sales of e-scooters were up by 450 per cent in recent weeks, despite privately-owned e-scooters being banned from public roads. Reports of dangerous and anti-social use of e-scooters are increasing across the UK. Thus, exposing potential threats to people with sight loss and others. People with sight loss have told us that because they operate quietly, e-scooters are extremely difficult to identify and avoid. E-scooters which are part of trials have a maximum speed of 15.5mph, but those sold privately do not have to meet the same standards.
Guide dog owner Elaine Maries from Milton Keynes was hit by an e-scooter rider earlier this year. She shares her story: “I was getting my guide dog Inca into her harness just outside on the pavement where I live, when I could tell something was coming towards me, but I didn’t know what it was. All I could hear was two voices screaming and the next thing I knew one of them had hit me with such force he knocked me over into Inca. It was extremely unsettling, as I didn’t know what had hit me.
“It was only a nearby pedestrian, who came and checked on me, that told me it was two teenage boys riding the same e-scooter that had hit me and knocked me down. Neither of the boys check on me to see if I was okay, they hopped back on the e-scooter and drove off. Luckily, neither Inca or I were injured from the incident, but it could have been so much worse."
As someone with sight loss, it’s difficult for me to know where e-scooters are as they operate quietly. I was only able to know something was approaching me because the two boys were screaming and by then it was too late, I had been hit.
Elaine Maries, Guide dog owner
Chris Theobald, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “It’s important that the public understand the law on the use of e-scooters this Christmas. Our concern is that people will buy e-scooters as gifts without realising that using them on public roads and paths is illegal. “Anyone riding an e-scooter should be aware of the impact of unsafe or anti-social use. People with sight loss struggle to identify e-scooters because they operate quietly. When you can’t see or hear an e-scooter coming, it’s almost impossible to avoid.” “The boom in e-scooter sales could have real consequences for people with sight loss. E-scooters sold privately don’t have to meet rigorous safety standards, which is why we are seeing dangerous models with top speeds of up to 40mph on public roads.”
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