With Australia's aging population slowly handing in their licences when they find themselves incapable of driving, mobility scooters are fast becoming a popular sight to see on the footpath or shopping centre. This is generally due to their ease of use, relaxed restrictions in regards to regulations and licensing and the inexpensiveness of their purchase, servicing and maintenance. However, there are many questions- and some misconceptions too- when it comes to the rules and regulations pertaining to these disability aids and their usage.
The most important factor that must be addressed before you even look into purchasing a disability scooter (sometimes called a 'gopher', 'shoprider' or 'buggy') is "can I use it safely?". As many scooters as I have sold over the years, I have rejected almost the same amount of potential drivers. Although there are no official 'competency tests', I personally find that we have a moral obligation in making sure that we don't sell a product to someone that could hurt other people, let alone themselves. There have been cases of scooter owners driving to the shops, parking the machine outside, and then catching a bus home because their memory has failed due to a debilitating condition etc. Other people simply are too nervous or have an impairment that causes them to be a dangerous driver. If you are in doubt of whether you should be driving an electric pedestrian scooter, please consult your family before you make any final decisions. If you don't have family you can speak to your GP or consult a Physiotherapist \ Occupational Therapist (especially if you live in a Retirement Village \ Hostel due to their own private usage laws and regulations).
At this point it is prudent to acknowledge that a scooter user has the same rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian- and even a few more to boot. Firstly, you can only legally use them on the footpath. The exception is that the footpath is damaged, blocked or doesn’t exist, in which case you would drive as close to the side of the road as possible. The other important rule to adhere to is that scooters must travel below 10km per hour. Many of the other rules are self explanatory (do not drink drive, do not drive with two people on the scooter, do not cross anywhere except a zebra-crossing or lights etc.) although you should not use this blog as a definitive guide to local laws- check with your local roads and\or transport authority to ensure that you are obeying your LOCAL and STATE rules. For example, NSW does not enforce registration, whereas Queensland does. Another example is that here in NSW there was a law that once restricted the weight of the machine to 110kg which was abolished (unbeknownst to many) due to it being unfair for heavier people who need a reinforced machine. It important to note that there are no mandatory insurances for mobility scooters in NSW, however, you might look into adding a theft policy on your home and contents insurance- perhaps even applying for a Compulsorily Third Party policy in case you hit an expensive car or injure somebody.
Now that you are more informed you are ready to approach the world of electric scooters and wheelchairs. Make sure you don’t get sucked into buying a ‘cheap import’- call a reputable supplier who has a good range of machines on the floor. If you would like some information or advice on electric pedestrian scooters, or require some brochures or leaflets, please feel free to call us on 1300 133 505.