E-scooters- eco revolution or criminal menace?
Insurance 2022 - the year ahead
As e-scooters become ever more numerous on UK roads, their initial trial hire scheme is due to conclude in March 2022. But what will happen then now that the genie is out of the bottle?
The sight of e-scooters is now common throughout the UK with sales expected to increase throughout the festive period. An absence of restrictions on private purchases is driving increased use, despite the current unlawfulness of private e-scooter use on public roads, pavements and cycle lanes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, increasing numbers of accidents involving e-scooters are being reported. As sales, usage and accidents pick up speed, there is a worrying inertia in the regulatory space across the UK.
The end of the trial hire scheme was extended earlier this year, bringing the end dates to March 2022. In anticipation of this, we expect that the new year will bring about continued and renewed pressure from insurance trade bodies and consumer groups for urgent clarification from government on their plans to regulate these vehicles.
Currently, there exists an alarming lack of clarity around proposals on the insurance of privately owned e-scooters. By comparison, within the trial hire schemes operating in England, the hirer carries the responsibility for insurance. However, for illegally operated e-scooters, there are no requirements to have compulsory motor insurance or even display registration plates. This is a dangerous cocktail, particularly given the attractiveness of e-scooters to younger riders, who may be unfamiliar with the rules of the road and prone to youthful exuberance. The risk of attracting immediate fines and penalty points, particularly for those unlikely to have licences anyway, is clearly not a deterrent.
Currently, the Motor Insurers Bureau is left to get a handle on those personal injury claims involving individuals struck by e-scooters. Not unlike the ongoing proposals to amend UK road traffic law to clarify the murky position of who covers those struck by vehicles on private land, this stop-gap solution is not feasible in the long term.
The conclusion of the hire schemes will inevitably generate a progression of activity in policymaking and consideration of legislative change. Nonetheless, these discussions and any progression of legislation will take time. What happens in the meantime? These changes do not exist in a vacuum, and the removal of trial hire scooters will not prevent the continued illegal use of privately owned scooters in public places.
Younger generations are already acutely aware of some of the benefits brought by e-scooters through their widespread usage and trying to oppose ongoing use is likely to be a losing battle.
Therefore, the construction of a full package of suitable regulation and guidance must be complete prior to any proposals for the full legalisation of private e-scooter usage. Discussions must be held on the integration of e-scooters into existing transport regulations and insurance pricing structures as soon as possible.