Memorandum from the Department for Transport
1. Mobility scooters are called invalid
carriages in law and there are a number of legislative provisions
relating to invalid carriages. The Government does not currently
believe that mobility scooters have a significant impact upon
road safety at this point in time. However, the Department for
Transport (DfT) is aware that the number of mobility scooters
in use is likely to increase in the future, in line with the predicted
changes in UK demographics with respect to age and obesity. For
this reason, the Department will monitor its policy on mobility
scooters including future fitness to drive, insurance, registration
and training requirements.
2. In legislation, "mobility scooters"
are called "invalid carriages". An "invalid carriage"
is defined by section 185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (the "RTA
1988" as follows:
"In this Act `invalid carriage' means a
mechanically propelled vehicle the weight of which unladen does
not exceed 254 kilograms and which is specifically designed and
constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of a person suffering
from some physical defect or disability and is used solely by
such a person".
The definition in section 136(5) of the Road
Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Meaning of "motor vehicle"
and other expressions relating to vehicles) is similar, but the
expression "physical default" is used in place of "physical
3. If an invalid carriage exceeds 254 kg
in unladen weight it will not be classified as an "invalid
carriage" for the purposes of the RTA 1988, the Road Traffic
Offenders Act 1988 (the "RTOA") and the Road Traffic
Regulation Act 1984 (the "RTRA") and of the Road Vehicles
(Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1078) (the "Construction
and use Regulations"). It will, instead be a motor car or,
if it has less than four wheels and the weight does not exceed
410 kg, a motor cycle.
4. Therefore a carriage for invalids over
254 kg is not an "invalid carriage" but will fall within
whatever category is appropriate for the particular vehicle and
the RTA 1988 the RTOA, the RTRA and the Construction and use Regulations
will apply, for example, the requirement that drivers of motor
vehicles have driving licences and compulsory insurance against
(Section 143(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that Part
VI of that Act, which includes provisions relating to compulsory
insurance requirements, does not apply to invalid carriages. However,
the Department strongly encourages individuals to take out insurance
on a voluntary basis).
5. The Use of Invalid Carriages on Highways
Regulations 1988 (SI 1988/2268) (the "1988 Regulations")
make provision for Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 invalid carriages.
Invalid carriages complying with regulations 4-14 of the 1988
Regulations and, in relation to invalid carriages manufactured
before 30 January 1989, the provisions set out in the Use of Invalid
Carriages on Highways Regulations 1970 (SI 1970/1391) (the "1970
Regulations"), are treated for the purposes of the RTA 1988,
the RTOA and the RTRA as not being motor vehicles. Section 185
of the RTA defines "motor vehicles" as follows:
"In this Act `motor vehicle' means, subject
to section 20 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act
1970 (which makes special provision about invalid carriages, within
the meaning of that Act), a mechanically propelled vehicle intended
for use on roads".
6. Section 20(1)(b) of the Chronically Sick
and Disabled Persons Act 1970 provides that if an invalid carriage
which is mechanically propelled complies with either the 1988
Regulations or the 1970 Regulations and is used in accordance
with the conditions set out in those Regulations:
" . . . it shall be treated for the purposes
of the RTRA, the RTA1988, except section 22A of that Act (causing
danger to road users by interfering with motor vehicles etc),
and the RTOA as not being a motor vehicle and sections 1 to 4,
21, 34, 163, 170 and 181 of the RTA 1988 shall not apply to it".
7. Section 20(1) also provides that where
an invalid carriage complies with the requirements of the 1988
Regulations or the 1970 Regulations and is used in accordance
with conditions set out in those Regulations it may be used on
8. Invalid carriages used or kept on the
road (Class 3) are exempt from excise duty under Schedule 2 to
the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 (VERA). However,
such invalid carriages will need a nil licence by virtue of regulation
33 (Nil licences) of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing)
Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2742). Such carriages ought to be registered
by the Secretary of State upon the issue of the nil licence under
section 21 (Registration of vehicles) of VERA.
9. As mentioned above, the 1988 Regulations
provide for three types of invalid carriage, entitled Class 1,
Class 2 and Class 3:
Class 1 invalid carriages are defined in the
Regulations as invalid carriages which are not mechanically propelled.
Class 2 invalid carriages are defined as mechanically
propelled invalid carriages with an upper speed limit of 4 mph.
They are designed to be used on pavements.
Class 3 invalid carriages are defined as mechanically
propelled invalid carriages with an upper speed limit of 8 mph
and are equipped to be used on the road as well as the pavement.
When being used on a footway, Class 3 invalid carriages must not
be driven at a speed greater than 4 miles per hour.
10. In addition to the speed limits there
are weight restrictions set out in regulation 7 of the 1988 Regulations
in which the unladen weight of a Class 1 or 2 invalid carriage
must not exceed 113.4 kilograms and a Class 3 invalid carriage
must not exceed 150 kilograms. The regulations also set out other
requirements such as being able to stop (regulation 8), lighting
(regulation 9), speed devices and speed indicators (regulation
10), width (regulation 11) audible warning instruments (regulation
12), vision (regulation 13) and rear view mirrors (regulation
11. The Department of Transport currently
issues local Highway Authorities with a best practice guide "Inclusive
Mobility" available on the internet at: www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/tipws/inclusivemobility
for making the pedestrian environment and transport infrastructure
accessible to older and disabled people (including invalid carriage
users). The Department for Transport is planning to update this
guidance by December 2008. Based on the following accident data,
the Department for Transport does not believe that mobility scooters
have a significant impact upon road safety at this point in time.
12. In 2006, the Department for Transport
published research into the use of Class 2 and 3 mobility scooters
and powered wheelchairs (invalid carriages). The following accident
data has been drawn from the report "Review of Class 2
and 3 Powered Wheelchairs and Powered Scooters (Invalid Carriages)
" which is available in the House Library and on the internet
13. Precise and unambiguous statistics on
the number of incidents involving powered wheelchairs and mobility
scooters in the UK are not available. However, by analysing data
that has been complied from numerous sources, it can be concluded
that the number of incidents involving powered wheelchairs and
mobility scooters in the UK is extremely low.
14. Data from an insurance company who participated
in the above research (which is likely to be a reliable indicator
of the number of people experiencing incidents whilst using powered
wheelchairs and or scooters) indicates that 3.2% of wheelchair
and or scooter users experience incidents involving damage caused
to or by the vehicle.
Using an estimate of 44,778 powered wheelchair/scooter users in
the UK, the national estimate for claims is 1,343 per year. This
equates to only 3% of powered wheelchair/scooter users filing
a claim each year.
15. Similarly low incident figures have
been reported by the Leisure Accidents Surveillance (LASS) database
and Medical Devices Agency (MDA). The 2002 LASS data recorded
902 "leisure accidents" on powered wheelchair mobility
The MDA data concludes that approximately 1,400 incidents involving
wheelchairs are reported annually but this included powered and
non powered wheelchairs.
The MDA recorded only three serious injuries in relation to powered
wheelchair users and only two third party injuries.
16. Although shopping centres may be considered
to provide more scope for incidents involving pedestrians and
wheelchair/scooter users, for every 15 million visitors to a major
shopping centre there will be approximately only one reported
incident involving a powered scooter.
Similarly, Shopmobility (charitable organisations that hire out
mobility scooters) report low levels of incidents. The Shopmobility
data suggests that there is approximately one injury related insurance
claim per 195,995 loaned mobility units.
17. Moreover, the insurance company data
indicates that third party involvement in incidents with powered
wheelchair/scooters appears to be lowjust over one in five
(22%) of claims involve third parties.
18. In terms of comparing incident rates
of wheelchair and scooter users with pedestrian and cyclists it
is useful to look at data supplied by Lancashire Police. This
data highlights that in Lancashire between 1999 and 2002 there
were no fatalities, three "serious" and 14 "slight"
casualties recorded in relation to "invalid carriages".
These figures are compared to 17,910 car driver or passenger,
3,131 pedestrian and 1,593 cyclist casualties. Consequently, out
of a total of 26,463 casualties recorded in Lancashire, those
involving "invalid carriages" represent just 0.06% of
incidents over this time period.
19. The Government does not currently believe
that mobility scooters have a significant impact upon road safety.
However, demand for mobility scooters, may increase significantly
in the future due to the aging population and increased obesity.
20. In order to balance the mobility needs
of scooter users with the safety needs of other pedestrians and
road users, the DfT will monitor its policy in this area and continue
to look at how best to improve advice and information to prospective
users and address the insurance, fitness to drive, training, registration
and licensing issues that have been brought to the Government's
The Department welcomes the views of the Transport
Select Committee on these issues.
1 Wilkinson's Road Traffic Offences, Twenty-Third Edition,
2007, Sweet & Maxwell Limited. Back
From 30,000 powered wheelchair/scooter users, the insurance company
receives approximately 956 claims involving damage caused to or
by the vehicle a year. Back
This data refers only to incidents which involved the injured
party to seek hospital treatment. Back
Note that this data includes powered and non powered wheelchairs
and is thought to be under-reported. Back
Meadowhall and the Trafford centre reported that incidents involving
personal injury of wheelchair/scooter users and third parties
where as low as one injury per 15 million visitors. This equates
to approximately two incidents a year at both centres. Back