Within days of posting my last blog, in which I attempted to warn drivers about the use of e-scooters, it was reported that a 20-year-old on the Isle of Wight was caught using an e-scooter whilst over the drink drive limit. The rider was disqualified for two years!
Misunderstanding of people
It seems that there is a general misunderstanding about the lawful use of e-scooters. People don’t realise that e-scooters are classified as a motor vehicles. This confusion is clear from the number of recent reported cases in the Courts, as well as reports in the national press. It is perhaps understandable why people are so confused. These nifty forms of transport seem more like toys, or very similar to bicycles. Consequently, people may not give much thought to the legal consequences of their use. Perhaps people think that such concerns are too obscure and of interest only to lawyers. This is why it is necessary to blog about these issues, so that the information can be disseminated more widely. I also wonder what information is provided at the point of sale and whether the manufactures and sellers need to provide a better understanding. There is also some confusion over when an e-scooter can or cannot be used lawfully.
Use of e-scooters
How can some e-scooters be used lawfully, when others cannot? It appears, from the report of the Isle of Wight case, that the e-scooter was part of a ‘scheme’ and therefore, probably complied with the regulations on construction and use – see my previous blog on e-scooters for an explanation of how e-scooters, which are part of a ‘scheme’, may be exempt from some of the regulations. Where the rider on the Isle of Wight seems to have offended the law is by the way the e-scooter was used and her inebriated state! She was significantly over the drink drive limit. And, also failing to comply with a red light didn’t help. Narrowly missing the police car didn’t endear her to the officers either.
It used to be the case that being posted to the Isle of Wight was a punishment for a police officer. Things may have changed, but then, nothing much changes on the island; which may be its appeal, to some. So, on the evening in questions, there were the police officers, just commencing their night duty on the less then busy streets of the island, when suddenly and out of the darkness, loomed an object propelled at speeds rarely seen on the island’s road, possible exceeding 15 mph.
As an aside, when a police officer is involved in a road traffic accident on duty, they are subject to a very strict investigation to identify the cause of the accident. During this rigorous investigation, the officer may be suspended from driving until the outcome of the inquiry. A police officer suspended from driving has limited job capacity and may be relegated to cell block duties or other less interesting work. Even the slightest impact involving a police car will initiate such an investigation, including being hit by an e-scooter! It is the dread of every officer to be involved in an accident. So when the e-scooter narrowly missed colliding with the police car, consequences would inevitably follow.
After the police officers were alarmingly alerted to the presence of the offending vehicle, their initial shock would have passed into relief at not been hit – just imagine the form-filling and gaoler duties – and their thoughts passed swiftly to indignation and irritation. It was in this state, no doubt, that our crime fighters focused their interest on the rider, and being professionals and not missing a beat, as to why the e-scooter was being driven so appallingly. Was this due to the condition of the rider? One can only assume that it soon become obvious to the officers that she had been drinking.
In this particular case, the e- scooter rider was banned from driving all motor vehicles for two years because her alcohol level was over twice the legal limit.
For those people who rely on their driving licence, exercise great care before stepping astride an e-scooter.
Andrew Henley is a direct access barrister representing clients in Surrey, Hampshire and London.