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Written on 22nd March 2023 by Kim Milan

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety ( PACTS)  and the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) have set out their recommendations for internationally agreed technical standards for e-scooters, and regulations for their use.  The joint PACTS and ETSC report, Recommendations on Safety of E-scooters, responds to the rapidly increasing numbers of e-scooters in use in Europe during recent years, including their illegal use in the UK, and a related increase in road traffic accident deaths and serious injuries from collisions or accidents involving e-scooters.

The report takes into account a wide range of research data from hospital studies, vehicle safety testing and previous research reported by PACTS in the UK. It calls for agreed standards across the countries of Europe to address the current wide variation in the technical specifications for e-scooters and the regulations governing their use. Instead of asking whether e-scooters are safe or dangerous, the report sets out practical recommendations to reduce the risk of injury to e-scooter riders and other road users, by making e-scooters safer both in their design and in their usage.

What are the new e-scooter recommendations by PACTS and ETSC?

The report recommends that the EU and national governments, including the UK, introduce the following technical standards into the way e-scooters are made:

  • Speed

PACTS and ETSC recommend that private e-scooters should be set at the factory to a maximum speed of 20 km/h (around 12.5mph). Shared e-scooters by providers (such as  rental schemes) should also be limited to a top speed of 20 km/h, but should be subject to lower speed limits in pedestrian zones, which would automatically be applied using GPS.

This recommendation takes into account the maximum speed of 20km/h already applied in some European countries, and that this is higher than the average speed of many pedal cycles in urban areas. Higher speeds increase the likelihood and severity of head and other injuries to e-scooter riders, pedestrians and other road users, and increases the (already high) likelihood of the rider losing control when driving over road defects or poor road surface conditions. E-scooters are not fitted with speedometers as standard and the most reliable way to enforce the speed limit is by building it into the e-scooter’s construction, so that it does not depend solely on the rider’s compliance. Where e-scooters share space with pedestrians, PACTS and ETSC recommend lower speed limits of 10km/h (just over 6mph), but recognise that this may be difficult for police to enforce.

  • Power

PACTS and ETSC recommend that e-scooters should have a maximum rated power of 250w. This limit already applies in countries such as Sweden and Switzerland and is the same as the maximum power level for electrically power-assisted cycles (EPACs).  Unlike e-scooters, EPACs need the rider to pedal to accelerate, which means that in practise they accelerate more slowly than e-scooters.

PACTS and ETSC also took into account that  limiting the e-scooter’s power restricts its maximum speed or the ability to tamper with it to increase its speed and reduces the ability to carry passengers.

  • Tampering

The report recommends that tampering with the e-scooter’s settings should be prohibited by law. Anti-tampering mechanisms should be included at the factory for privately owned e-scooters and by the operator, such as the rental scheme operator, for shared e-scooters. It would then be easier to identify vehicle tampering, for enforcement purposes, because it would be clear that tampering had occurred on any e-scooter exceeding the speed limit.  

  • Wheel size

A minimum wheel size of 30.5 cm  or 12 inches is recommended for all types of e-scooters. This recommendation recognises that larger wheel size increases stability. It aims to increase the stability of the e-scooter making it easier to control on poor road surfaces and reduce the rider’s risk of losing control and falling, particularly around other vehicles.

  • Brakes

PACTS and ETSC recommend a requirement for independent front and rear wheel braking devices for private and shared e-scooters. This increases stability and the ability to stop effectively, and would align with the regulations for mopeds which use dual braking. The report recommends considering ways to reduce the instability of e-scooters when decelerating (slowing down), such as using motor brakes to regulate downhill speed automatically.

  • Lighting

The report recommends that e-scooters should be required to have independent front and rear lights which are placed as high on the e-scooter as is practical. This is because e-scooter riders are less likely to be seen in traffic and are often not recognised by vehicle detection systems.  The report also recommends that integrated indicator lights are considered to avoid the rider losing control of the e-scooter when taking a hand off the handlebar to indicate using hand signals. 

  • Audible warning devices

PACTS and ETSC recommend that all e-scooters have audible warning devices, such as an electrically powered buzzer,  to be able to alert other road users to their presence. E-scooters’ speed, silent operation and low visibility make them particularly dangerous around blind and partially sighted people.  

PACTS and ETSC also recommend to the EU and national governments that e-scooter riders must comply with the following rules of the road:

  • Helmets

PACTS and ETSC recommend that helmet wearing should be mandatory for riders of all types of e-scooters. Helmets for e-scooter riders are already compulsory in at least 12 European countries. Research has shown that e-scooter riders are more likely to suffer serious head injury and traumatic brain injury in falls and RTA collisions than pedal cyclists. The head injuries suffered by e-scooter riders are more like motorcycle injuries than cycle injuries. However, very few of the riders who suffered these injuries were wearing helmets, which could have prevented or reduced their injury if worn.

The report calls for more research into helmet design for e-scooter riders as they are known to fall forwards over the handlebars during a collision, impact with a road defect or loss of stability and suffer more facial injuries than pedal cyclists.

  • Riding on pavements

PACTS and ETSC recommend that no e-scooters should ever be ridden on pavements. Pavement riding is a danger to pedestrians, especially the elderly and visually impaired, from e-scooters sharing the same space.

  • Passengers

The report recommends that e-scooters do not carry passengers. E-scooters should be ridden by one person at a time. The greater the weight on the e-scooter, the more difficult it is to stop or slow it down. This increases the risk of injury to other road users. In addition, as research has shown that adult e-scooter riders suffer abdominal injuries in collisions from hitting the handlebars, by implication PACTS and ETSC believe that child passengers who stand in front of the rider on the e-scooter are at risk of head injury from impact with the stem and handlebars.

  • Minimum age

PACTS and ETSC recommend that e-scooter riders should be at least 16 years old, or the same as the national age requirement for a moped if it is older (not younger). This is because e-scooters have more in common with mopeds than  pedal cycles. The minimum age to ride a moped is 16 in the UK. ETSC recommends that European countries which  currently allow e-scooters to be ridden by younger children should seriously consider adopting a higher age limit.

  • Drink-driving and drug-driving e-scooters

PACTS and ETSC recommend that riding an e-scooter whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs should be prohibited. Riding an e-scooter safely depends on the ability to balance, so it takes less alcohol to make a rider unfit to ride an e-scooter than to drive a motor vehicle. Studies have shown that a large proportion of e-scooter riders who are treated in accident and emergency departments (A&E or ED) after injuries in e-scooter accidents are intoxicated.

  • E-scooters and mobile phones

PACTS and ETSC recommend that using a handheld mobile phone while riding an e-scooter should be prohibited. E-scooters are harder to control with one hand, and being distracted with a mobile device increases the risk of a collision. 

  • Rider training

The report recommends that e-scooter riders receive training to ensure that they are competent to use the e-scooter and understand the rules of the road. Consideration should also be given to providing basic road safety education to all road users, including pedestrians, including awareness of the risks associated with e-scooters and other ‘micromobility’ vehicles.  PACTS and ETSC point out that e-scooters are vulnerable vehicles, especially when ridden around other road traffic, and a high proportion of e-scooter accidents occur the first time the rider uses the vehicle.

PACTS and ETSC recommendations – a step in the right direction

Road safety affects us all, whether we walk, cycle or drive, as an occasional trip in our weekly routine or for work several hours a day. As this report makes clear, e-scooters and the consequences of their construction and use, are changing the road safety environment and are here to stay.

Boyes Turner’s RTA injury claims specialists welcome these recommendations in the hope that they will inform and positively influence the UK’s anticipated micromobility legislation. It is vital that these recommendations are implemented and enforced alongside other means of regulation and accountability, such as licensing and mandatory insurance, to keep riders and other road users safe and ensure that those who are injured in e-scooter collisions can access proper compensation.

If you or a family member have suffered serious injury in a road traffic accident, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about rehabilitation and making a claim by contacting us here.