The success of e-scooter rental schemes from companies such as Lime and Neuron has seen many people hiring them to commute around our cities.
Given the popularity of these e-scooters for hire, it’s hardly surprising the trend to own your own personal electric scooter is also on the rise.
The benefits are broad ranging; e-scooters are small, lightweight, cheap to run, reduce your environmental footprint and are easy to store.
Riding an e-scooter allows you to avoid bumper to bumper traffic and navigate your way on a footpath – but riders should be aware that this benefit also brings risks. As the number of e-scooter riders rises, so does the number of accidents. Principal Lawyer, Alison Barrett, explains the risks of riding e-scooters, what laws apply and understanding your rights.
The rules around the use of e-scooters vary between each state and territory so it is important to understand the laws of your state.
For example, in Queensland the maximum speed an e-scooter can travel is 25km/h and you can ride on a road in a local street which has a speed limit of 50km/h.
However, the same e-scooter must not be ridden on roads in the Brisbane CBD, meaning users are only permitted to ride e-scooters among pedestrians, on busy footpaths.
In Victoria, if your e-scooter can travel more than 20km/h, then it is illegal to ride it anywhere other than private property. If you do, you can incur a hefty fine.
In late 2020 the National Transport Commission made some recommendations about the use of e-scooters for the Australian Road Rules.
Despite these recommendations there continues to be inconsistency across the states and territories as to whether e-scooters are permitted on roads and footpaths, and if they are, the rules surrounding their use. This creates confusion and complexity for e-scooter riders and increases the risk of electric scooter accidents.
Most importantly, when you are using an e-scooter, ensure you are riding at safe speeds around other road users and pedestrians, wear a helmet and do not ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Related article: Surging use of e-Scooters raises questions
Even if e-scooters are authorised to be ridden on roads, many riders opt to use footpaths due to the vulnerability of riders and the safety concerns of riding a scooter alongside vehicles that are much larger and faster. While riding on the road may pose a danger for e-scooter riders, riding on footpaths also has its dangers.
What happens if you collide with a pedestrian causing them a serious injury? What happens if you hit a crack in the footpath and fall off? What happens if you fall off and you are seriously injured?
Studies of e-scooter injuries reveal it is millennials who are more likely to suffer a serious injury from an e-scooter, and that injuries are on the rise. In Victoria alone, the number of e-scooter riders that have been hospitalised after an accident have increased 234% from 2021 to 2022.
E-scooters are not required to be registered, so therefore it is not compulsory for you to obtain personal insurance to ride an e-scooter. But, having insurance which covers e-scooters it is a good way to protect yourself in case of an accident. If you cause damage to someone’s property or injure a pedestrian while riding an electric scooter, you may be liable to pay for their medical expenses or property damage bill, which insurance would cover.
The difficulty lies in seeking out adequate insurance that covers you for these types of scenarios. Most insurance companies are now creating policies to cover you as an e-scooter rider, but you need to find the right policy and read the fine print.
If you have home and contents insurance, you should check with your provider if they cover you for the use of an e-scooter. Many policies do not have protection for e-scooter use as part of their standard policy.
If you fall off an e-scooter and you are unable to work due to your injuries, you could face serious financial hardship.
One way to protect yourself is to check your superannuation has adequate insurance attached to it. Many funds have automatic insurances such as life insurance, total and permanent disability insurance and sometimes even income protection.
However, not all funds offer the same level of protection, nor do they offer all insurances as an automatic added inclusion.
There are many circumstances that may lead to an e-scooter accident, including:
Where it is a third party’s fault that the accident occurred, such as a car or a local council due to footpath defects, you may have legal rights you can pursue. It's best to seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident to understand what laws apply and what options you may have.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being in an e-scooter accident, you should:
Personal e-scooters can be a fun and convenient way to get around, and are likely to be an increasingly popular transport option. But as with all vehicles on our roads and footpaths, there is an element of risk.
We encourage all riders to enjoy their e-scooters, but to do so safely by making sure they’re following the road rules that apply where they live, and ensuring they are protected if they hurt themselves or someone else while on the e-scooter.