Mobility scooter riding seniors and drivers urged to share road in bid to curb growing accident rates
Mobility scooter drivers in New South Wales are being trained to safely use roads and footpaths in a bid to curb growing accident rates.
Free seniors training workshops are being held across the state to try to reduce accidents and highlight road safety obligations and how to use scooters safely.
Yass Valley Council road safety officer Melissa Weller said Australia-wide there had been “62 deaths over a five-year period”.
“We also know that we are getting increased injury presentation to hospitals, this is happening in the hundreds,” she said.
Ms Weller acknowledged that for some drivers and pedestrians, mobility scooters could be perceived as a menace on roads and footpaths.
But she also strongly emphasised that mobility scooters can be a lifeline for users, particularly in outer city suburbs or regional areas like Yass where there is limited public transport.
Across the Yass Valley there are more than 2,300 of these vulnerable scooter users aged over 65.
Yass Highway Patrol Senior Constable Mat Carroll said with the rapidly ageing population came an increased risk from mobility scooter accidents.
“One morning I was at the traffic lights and an elderly man on a mobility scooter had right of way to cross one side of the road and as he was crossing a person didn’t see him and hit him, clipped him in the car,” Senior Constable Carroll said.
He said fortunately the incident was a near miss and the elderly man was not seriously injured, but the incident could have been a lot worse.
“He did not see him because of the size of the mobility scooter,” he said.
“People aren’t standing up, they are sitting down, so naturally they are losing half their height to start with.”
‘The Yass Monster’
Yass senior resident Gwen Watters loves her large electric mobility scooter, but she is also very conscious of how top heavy it can become depending on the weight of her bags and shopping.
“I call it a monster because it monsters!” Ms Watters said about her mobility scooter, which she also affectionately refers to as a “shopping trolley”.
“This huge canopy is certainly not lightweight.
“It doesn’t feel as though I could pick it up.”
Ms Watters does not drive a car, so the mobility scooter allows her to continue living in her home in the hills above the Yass town centre.
“I can’t walk uphill so this is absolutely essential to me and it gives me a good degree of independence,” she said.
“I have been very lucky not to get verbal abuse from car drivers and more than 50 per cent of the time they give way to me.”
Ms Watters said she was very cautious around driveways and parked cars.
“I must concentrate on what I am doing and I have to be conscious of the potholes in the road or the bumps on the footpath,” she said.
Taming the mobility scooter beast within
Drivers and mobility scooter users were urged to exercise greater care as part of the safety message delivered at the Yass Valley workshop.
“They are deemed as pedestrians while on the mobility scooters, so they also have an obligation to ensure that they obey the road rules as well,” Senior Constable Carroll said.
Mobility scooter drivers do not need a licence or registration for their vehicle and also cannot drink and ride.
Mobility scooters cannot exceed a weight of 110 kilograms, or a brisk pedestrian walking pace speed of 10 kilometres per hour.
Mobility scooters must also be electric, meaning modifications like petrol motors are outlawed because this could increase speed beyond the acceptable level.
“You see them going up and down the street, people using them to go shopping. Then yeah [speeding by mobility scooter] users can be a concern,” Senior Constable Carroll said.
But where there is no footpath or obstacles on the pavement like glass and rubbish, mobility scooter users do have a right to be on the road-side shoulder and on shared cycle ways in NSW.
Drivers are being urged to accept and share the road with an ever increasing number of scooter riding seniors, in a similar way to cyclists.
“I think no they shouldn’t be on the road, in my personal view they should stay off the road and on the footpaths instead,” Senior Constable Carroll said.
“It is like the push-bike argument with bicycle riders and registration and licences.”
But Ms Weller said that the workshop does “encourage mobility scooter users to only use roads” to a minimum.
This article was sourced from ABC News published on Saturday, May 16, 2015 to view the original article please click here