Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Department for Transport (RS 01)


  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.

Legislative 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 defect".

  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 third-party risks.[1] (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 a footway.

  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 14).

  11.  The Department of Transport currently issues local Highway Authorities with a best practice guide "Inclusive Mobility" available on the internet at: 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.

Accident Data

  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 at:

  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.[2] 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 aids.[3] The MDA data concludes that approximately 1,400 incidents involving wheelchairs are reported annually but this included powered and non powered wheelchairs.[4] 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.[5] 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 low—just 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 attention.

  The Department welcomes the views of the Transport Select Committee on these issues.

December 2007

1   Wilkinson's Road Traffic Offences, Twenty-Third Edition, 2007, Sweet & Maxwell Limited. Back

2   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

3   This data refers only to incidents which involved the injured party to seek hospital treatment. Back

4   Note that this data includes powered and non powered wheelchairs and is thought to be under-reported. Back

5   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

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