Even though they’ve been on the market for a fair while now, the debate still ranges over how dangerous electric scooters are – both to the rider and surrounding people. There’s been plenty of new coverage delivering sometimes rather sensationalist copy that says they’re too dangerous to be freely available without some kind of permit or test. On the other hand millions of units have been sold to many happy users which poses the question ‘are electric scooters dangerous?’. As we’ll see the truth to the matter is that in the hands of a sensible user who understands their limits – no.
What’s The Difference Between Electric Scooters And Bikes?
To start with we need to answer this question as often these two products are banded under the same brush. Essentially electric bikes tend to used more by older generations who enjoy their cycling but haven’t the stamina for long journeys. On the other hand electric scooters are much more a younger person pursuit, being essentially a high power foot scooter of the type often seen in pedestrian areas. The worry over the safety of electric scooters mainly comes down to where they are being used irresponsibly on sidewalks and other pedestrian zones.
Is There Truth to the ‘Dangerous’ Label?
On a purely anecdotal level – yes, a little. There’s little doubt that electric scooters in irresponsible hands have let to injury to driver and others. In the most reported cases, these have led to fatalities. Make no mistake that electric scooters can take people by surprise at how powerful they can be. This isn’t helped by many companies advertising the power and potential top speeds as a key part of their marketing campaign. For example, one top end model proudly states up to 40 mph thanks to its 400W motor. So there’s no surprise that plenty of people are lambasting the use of such powerful and potentially speedy devices in residential/public zones.
On the Other Hand…
There is clear legislation brought into place that places speed limits on electric scooters. In many jurisdictions, this is capped at 25 mph – and often much lower. Therefore there’s clearly a ‘shut and close’ case that powerful electric scooters ought to be banned from public areas. The fact that they do not qualify as a road vehicle would, therefore, make them restricted entirely to private grounds – hardly what the majority of customers would be looking for.
However, the majority of electric scooters on the market are capped at a maximum (and often unobtainable) top speed of 25 mph or lower. The products described above are for a niche in the market, or at least that’s how the companies would describe them anyway. Plus there is the major headache of policing the use of different powers of electric scooter on the roads. After all, it’s very difficult to tell the power of a motor from a glance alone, making it incredibly easy for powerful scooters to get away with being out and about.
So is There a Solution?
The only obvious solution is to encourage owners to respect the local laws, but this is unlikely going to work across the board. Banning the sale of more powerful electric scooters would also be unenforceable. Some have argued that all owners of such devices have some kind of permit clearly displayed on their scooter that authorizes there sensible use in public. This sounds like a fair solution, but is hardly going to appeal to the ‘coolness’ factor of an electric scooter and will likely damage the market. Plus it’s even more licensing legislation to administer and enforce.
In the meantime, it’s very much a gray area. For 90%+ of electric scooter owners to be punished by fierce legislation would seem unfair, yet there is the fact that they do cause injuries. Time will tell if a reasonable solution can be found.
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