How to be safe on your mobility scooter

Shoprider Rainrider all-weather scooter

2008 Shoprider Rainrider all-weather mobility scooter (Credit: Wikipedia)

Every year, hundreds of new mobility scooterists take to the roads for the first time. And, while they’re fairly straightforward machines to control, there are still some things that first-time users need to know.

Here, Chartwell Insurance – the specialist mobility scooter broker – provides the essential guide to mobility scooter safety.

  1. The first thing to do is familiarise yourself with your new scooter on a safe piece of land. Read the instructions thoroughly and then get to know the controls and practice the trickier aspects like kerbs and uneven surfaces in a safe area, and get to grips with the turning circle and braking.
  2. Undertaking one of the many training courses available is highly advised for newcomers. Your local council’s Road Safety Unit will have details of the most suitable course for you, or you could try the Disabled Living Centre or the Forum of Mobility Centres.
  3. You may not be driving a car, but you still have to follow the rules of the Highway Code, which includes a special section for those who ride mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs.
  4. Make sure you choose the right scooter for your needs. There are three classifications of mobility scooter or wheelchair, with different features aimed at use on either footways or roads. Some can cope with rougher terrain, others have either three wheels or four, and have different maximum speeds. Most scooters can cope with normal lowered kerb ramps, but it’s important to approach them head on to avoid tipping. Similarly, avoid sideways sloping pavements.
  5. Initially, it’s worth carefully planning your journeys before you set out to avoid busy junctions or roundabouts until you’re feeling more confident.
  6. Before you set off on your first proper journey, you’ll need to take out bespoke mobility scooter insurance. Chartwell provides cover for all types of scooter or electric wheelchair, including accidental damage, theft, third party liability up to £2m and optional breakdown. Prices start from just £52 a year.
  7. When you’re riding on the footpath, always show consideration to pedestrians – you may not be travelling very fast at up to 4mph, but you can still do some damage, especially to small children.
  8. Once you’re ready to hit the roadways, always take heed of traffic signals, and make yourself as visible as possible – a safety flag on the back of your scooter higher than your head will help you stand out to other motorists, as will bright clothing and something reflective at night. Basically, the rules are similar to driving a car – go with the flow of traffic, give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings and traffic lights, look out for potholes, drains and other obstructions and remember that, if you’re used to driving a car, you’re nowhere near as easy to see now. Take extra care at busy junctions, and at major roundabouts it might be safer to use the footpath if there is one.
  9. Like with any vehicle, it’s important that you keep your scooter or wheelchair in good working order in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Make sure the battery is kept charged, the lights and horn work properly and the mirrors and windscreen are kept clean.
  10. When parking your scooter, there are two things to consider: make sure you don’t park anywhere that might cause an obstruction, and make sure you secure your vehicle. Always remove the key, if it has one, even if you’re just popping into a shop, and lock your seat into place before you get up if it’s lockable, to prevent the scooter from moving.
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