Thu 08 Jun 2023

E-scooter accidents: A Guide to the Law in Scotland

There is a real buzz around the growing number of personal transport devices available to the public, with e-scooters, hoverboards, Segways and even electric unicyles in use across the nation. While these electrified options become a familiar sight in towns and cities across Scotland, there is a general lack of understanding around the legality of such devices.

These quick, convenient, and environmentally friendly powered transporters are defined in Scots law as PLEVs - Personal Light Electric Vehicles. What some PLEV operators don't realise is that they are subject to similar legal requirements as the drivers of other vehicles. This includes having appropriate insurance in place, ensuring the construction and use of their vehicle is compliant, and a requirement to hold a provisional or full driving licence. 

Are e-scooters illegal?

Of the emerging PLEVs in the UK the electric scooter, or e-scooter, is arguably the most popular. E-scooters can be purchased from many high street retailers or online with options available for both adults and children. Weighing up to 16kg with top speeds ranging from 12mph to 30mph, e-scooters can propel their users as far as 30 miles without the need for a charge. Despite their growing accessibility and popularity, it is currently illegal to ride an e-scooter in a public place in Scotland. This includes in any park or town centre and on any cycle lane, footpath or public road. Indeed, the only place where an e-scooter can currently be legally operated in Scotland is on private land, with the landowner's permission. Despite this, more people than ever are buying e-scooters and using them as a means of commuting, or for leisure purposes, favouring their compact nature and speed over that of traditional pedal bikes.

It may come as a surprise to some that the police are entitled to issue a Fixed Penalty notice to any e-scooter user in a public place in Scotland who is caught riding either without a licence or without insurance.  This may result in a £300 fine, as well as six penalty points on your driving licence, should you hold one.

According to data published by the UK Government there were 1,349 collisions involving e-scooters across the UK in 2022 with 1,437 casualties. Sadly, there were also 12 fatal collisions involving e-scooters across the same period, with 11 of the victims being the riders of the e-scooters themselves.  Given the growing popularity of e-scooters and these alarming statistics, there is likely to be greater enforcement of the law by police in future. 

Are e-bikes illegal?

When electric bikes, or e-bikes, were initially popularised, the public were not well informed of the laws which governed their use.  In response to this, the UK government created regulatory guidance on "Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles" (EAPCs). If an e-bike is an EAPC, it is legal to use even in the absence of registration, taxation, insurance and a licence. EAPCs are regulated in various ways, including a requirement for manufacturers to limit their top speed to 15.5mph. Any e-bike which does not meet EAPC rules is classed as a motorcycle or moped, which then requires it to be registered and taxed, and the rider requires a valid driving licence and must wear a helmet.

The regulation of e-bikes has been generally successful and this has been supported by the Scottish Government offering interest free loans for their purchase on the basis of their benefits both in environmental terms, as well as for the health benefits of the user.

So, what's next?

Whilst the popularity of e-scooters among the public is increasing, the guidance issued by the government, the police, e-scooter manufacturers and retailers is contradictory and confusing. At present, more than 50 trials are underway across England, allowing members of the public to rent e-scooters for use on public roads. As part of these trials, the e-scooter driver must download an app created by the operators of the trials which requires them to complete a registration progress which includes age verification and driving licence upload. In addition, the driver must complete mandatory in-app training on e-scooter safety, after which they are entitled to hire an e-scooter for use in public. Some schemes are also offering long term rentals for a number of days or weeks - in theory, the perfect solution for many city commuters. However, the regulations under these schemes are not applicable to privately owned scooters and so it remains illegal to operate a privately owned e-scooter across the UK. With an estimated one million privately owned e-scooters already on the UK's roads, adequate regulation is both absolutely necessary and long overdue.

Despite there being no immediate plans for e-scooter trials north of the border, there is growing public interest in Scotland for adequate regulation of e-scooters to ensure the safety of all road users.

E-scooters have huge potential to contribute to a more sustainable transport system.  As city centres become "low emission zones", environmentally friendly forms of transport are both welcome and necessary.  To prevent any confusion, it will be necessary for a joined up approach to be taken across the UK, ensuring the necessary regulation of e-scooters. This will be essential to create a safe road environment for everyone.

How to claim after a road traffic collision

If you have suffered an injury as a result of a road traffic collision caused by any personal transport device such as an e-scooter, you should seek advice from a specialist personal injury lawyer. At Morton Fraser, our experienced personal injury team based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, will take the time to assess your claim and can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us today on 0131 247 1000 or through our personal injury compensation enquiry form.

Morton Fraser are delighted to partner with Brake the road safety charity, who support those bereaved or seriously injured by road traffic collisions. Brake also support communities, helping to make them safer to stop the tragedy of unnecessary road deaths and injuries.

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