If you live in a built up city and are a regular road user you have definitely seen the growth in popularity of electronic modes of transport such as the e-scooter and other similar electronically powered vehicles. There is no doubt that electric transport has become a common feature of modern city life.
With increasing efforts from governments to reduce air pollution in built up cities through increased motoring costs; more exclusively pedestrianised areas; and the increased development of cycle lane networks, it is clear to see the appeal of electronic modes of transport. And with zero emissions, minimal running costs and their relatively cheap purchase price (an e-scooter can be bought for as little as £150.00) it is obvious to see why there has been a marked increase in the use of these vehicles.
So given that these vehicles can be readily purchased from suppliers without any legal requirements; and given that you would be hard pressed to go a day in the city without seeing one; surely this means they are perfectly legal to use on the public roads or the payments? Actually, the short answer is no.
“Powered transporters” (which is the term used to cover a variety of novel and emerging transport devices including e-scooters, hover-boards, go-peds, powered unicycles and u-wheels) are powered by a motor and are therefore classed as mechanically propelled motor vehicles for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This in short means that any use of these vehicles on a public road is subject to the usual legal requirements of a road user such as a driver’s licence and an insurance policy. This categorisation also means that it is illegal to use them on public pavements or cycle lanes.
All of this presents a catch-22 situation for powered transport users because at this point in time you cannot register your vehicle for road use nor can you obtain a policy of insurance. This therefore means that as soon as you use your vehicle on a road you automatically commit a number of offences such as driving otherwise in accordance with a licence or driving with no insurance.
Even if you only use your vehicle on a pavement or a cycle lane you automatically commit the offence of driving otherwise than on a road or contravening a cycle lane. In fact, as it stands the only permitted legal use of a powered transporter is on private land with the permission of the landowner.
Following a series of serious accidents involving powered transporters in London in 2019 the Metropolitan Police produced guidance on the use of such vehicles. The guidance states that the appropriate penalties for the illegal use of a powered transporter is likely to be a Fixed Penalty Notice.
Some of the amounts you could be fined are as follows:
- No insurance – £300 fine and six penalty points
- No driving licence – up to £1000 fine and three to six penalty points
- Riding on the footway – £50 fine
- Using a mobile phone – £100 and six penalty points
- Riding through red lights – £100 fine and possible penalty points
If you do not hold a driving licence you cannot receive penalty points. In this case the police would most likely charge you with an offence and the case would be sent to the Magistrates’ Court. This would most likely result in you receiving a greater fine if found guilty and (unlike when receiving a Fixed Penalty Notice) would result in you getting a criminal record. You may also be liable for court costs.
There are of course more serious charges if you are caught using your vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if things go wrong and you get into an accident. If you use the vehicle while intoxicated you could potentially be charged with drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs. In the event of collisions or reckless driving you could potentially be charged with careless driving or even dangerous driving – even if you were the one who sustained the injuries in an accident. If found guilty of any of these offences you could face a prison sentence and disqualification from driving.
Things are beginning to change as some local authorities are currently trialling the use of e-scooters and other electronic vehicles. The current schemes make it legal to use the vehicles, but only through a hire company and they can only be used on the roads and you must have at least a provisional driver’s licence and insurance.