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Blog: Mobility scooters, drink driving and the law

Don't drive drunk photoThere are around 300,000 mobility scooters and 4 to 5 million bicycles on UK roads but they aren't governed by the same laws as motorists - a situation that needs to be remedied, says motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller.

There are reportedly 300,000 mobility scooters and around 4 to 5 million bicycles regularly used on UK roads.

Despite these numbers, these modes of transport are not classed as “mechanically propelled vehicles”, the definition used in most modern day motoring law legislation.

So many of the motoring laws that apply to cars and other motorised vehicles do not apply to mobility scooter drivers or cyclists.

Yet there has been a number of instances over the last decade or so when mobility scooter drivers and cyclists have wound up in court.

No licence needed

If prosecutions are brought against operators of these “vehicles” a problem arises, as when it comes to punishing the offender there is no requirement to hold a valid driving licence to drive a mobility scooter or ride a bicycle.

There was quite a lot of noise made about this issue in 2010 when the number of serious accidents caused by mobility scooter drivers was raised in parliament.

The general consensus at that time was that despite the number of drivers reported to be regularly on the roads (or pavements), there were not enough incidents involving them to make the expensive changes to the law necessary.

When mobility scooter drivers and cyclists have been prosecuted for drink related offences, the 1998 Road Traffic Act does not apply to them.

Drink driving loophole

Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 has been used for drink related incidents involving mobility scooters and bikes as it states that it is an offence to be riding a cycle or to be in charge of any “carriage, horse or cattle” when drunk.

The law requires the court to be satisfied that the driver was drunk - suggesting they were over the legal limit will be insufficient to secure a conviction.

There is also no lawful right for the police to request a breath, blood or urine sample to be provided in these circumstances.

If convicted, rather than being disqualified from driving or using the relevant mode of transport in the future, the penalty for this offence is either a fine of up to £200 or one month in prison.

For more serious incidents involving collisions caused by mobility scooters it is possible for the police to rely on an offence under paragraph 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

This gives the police powers to deal with those who use mobility vehicles in a dangerous manner and a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment may be imposed if convicted.

Calls for new law

Another problem road safety campaigners have raised is that there is no requirement for scooter users or cyclists to take out compulsory insurance.

In April 2011 there were calls by ministers to introduce a new "causing death by dangerous cycling" offence.

Despite the low speeds of mobility scooters - most are limited to a maximum speed of 8 mph - and biycles, with the number of mobility scooters and cyclists set to increase I do not think this issue will be going away.

I think it is only a matter of time before the government will be forced to update the current 19th century laws to bring this minority class of drivers to justice in line with the motoring laws applicable to motorists.

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director at motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

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Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director of motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.

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