Mobility scooters come with a number of options in terms of size, power, speed, weight, seat support and so on. It is important to recognise what your needs are, in order to get the right scooter to help you in your circumstances.
There are a number of factors about yourself to consider:
- Your mobility – this is your ability to move around. It includes walking, sitting down and standing up (called transferring), and adjusting or moving your body within the scooter.
- Your tolerance – this is the length of time you can tolerate doing something, for example standing, walking or sitting.
- Your balance – this is your ability to remain steady when standing and when seated.
- Your posture – this is the position in which you hold your body.
- Your body weight – if you are a large person you will need to look for a scooter that is appropriate and safe for you. Measure and record your weight accurately and check the manufacturer’s details.
- Your sight, perception, memory and cognitive ability – if you are losing your visual, perceptual, memory or cognitive abilities, it is unlikely that a scooter will be appropriate for you.
Consider how all these factors will be affected by, and will affect, your use of the scooter. There is currently no minimum ‘fitness to drive’ standard for mobility scooter users. If you have a condition which is deteriorating, you may wish to take account of your possible future needs at this earlier stage. A scooter is a significant investment. You will want to be able to use it safely and for long enough to make it worthwhile. You also need to take into account the needs of any person who will be helping you to carry out basic maintenance tasks, for example charging the batteries. Their level of ability and safety need to be considered.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MOBILITY SCOOTERS
The use of mobility scooters has grown significantly. This has led to rising concern over their safe use and how they should be treated in law. They are currently defined and governed by several pieces of older legislation, using the term ‘invalid carriages’. Following a consultation in 2010, the Department of Transport issued some improved guidance for mobility vehicle users which you are strongly advised to read. It is available here: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411210/Mobility_Vehicle_Users_guidance.pdf
Officially a mobility scooter may only be driven by a disabled person – a person with an injury, physical disability or medical condition which means they are unable to walk, or have difficulty walking. A non-disabled person may only drive them if they are demonstrating the scooter pre-sale, taking it to/from being mended or serviced, or providing training (Department for Transport 2015, p5).
Types of mobility scooters
Mobility scooters (invalid carriages) come in two legal categories, Class 2 and Class 3. The differences in weight and power (and thereby speed) of the two enable them to be used in different environments, but also have different legal requirements for the driver.
- These are generally smaller, lighter and less powerful;
- Can be designed for indoor and/or outdoor use. If for indoor use, they will have limited outdoor use and less distance range;
- Some can be dismantled or folded for transporting;
- Can not be used on the road (except where there is no pavement or to cross the road);
- Outdoor models have the ability to climb kerbs;
- Have a top speed of 4 mile/hour (6.44 km/hour);
- Do not need to be registered with the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
- These are generally bigger, heavier and more powerful;
- Are not for indoor use;
- Can be used on the road;
- Have a longer distance range;
- Can not be dismantled;
- Have a number of additional safety requirements to allow road use;
- Have a top speed of 4 miles/hour (6.44 km/hour) off the road and 8 miles/hour (12.9 km/hour) on the road;
- Must be registered with the DVLA;
- The user must be aged at least 14 years.
Class 3: Vehicles are not allowed on motorways, bicycle tracks or bus/cycle lanes, but are legally allowed on dual carriageways.
Boot scooters, which would be classified as Class 2, are specifically designed to be compact and easier to fold or dismantle. They can be transported in the boot of a car. Boot scooters differ in weight. You will need to ensure that you, or your carers, can disassemble or fold the scooter, then lift the scooter in and out of the boot and finally reassemble/unfold it at your destination. You will need to know the size of your car boot to ensure that your scooter will fit. The Rica website offers a car search facility which will help you to find out the size of your car boot.
Licensing or registering a Class 3 mobility scooter (invalid carriage)
You don’t have to pay vehicle tax for any mobility scooter or powered wheelchair, but you do need to register Class 3 mobility scooters.
To register a Class 3 mobility scooter you need to complete form V55/4 for new vehicles, or V55/5 for used vehicles. You can get the forms from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) online ordering service. You can’t license your mobility scooter online or at a Post Office. You will need to send the completed forms and evidence of the vehicle’s age (if available) to: DVLA Swansea, SA99 1BE.
More information is available on the Government website: www.gov.uk/mobility-scooters-and-powered-wheelchairs-rules/overview
Insurance for your mobility scooter
You do not have to have insurance for your mobility scooter, but it is highly recommended that you do. Third party insurance will cover you for other people making a claim against you if you are involved in an accident or cause some damage. Other policies will also insure against injuries to yourself and loss or damage of your scooter.
Mobility scooter batteries
All mobility scooter batteries will need to be charged, using an ordinary electric socket. They will need replacing after 12 to 18 months depending on their type and use. Always ensure that new batteries are suitable for your mobility scooter in terms of type, size and weight. Your supplier or your local council will be able to advise you how to dispose of old batteries.
There are three main types of battery: lead acid, gel cell and AGM. Check with your supplier which type of battery your scooter has and how best to charge and maintain it. Ensure you are provided with the manufacturer’s instructions, especially if you are purchasing a second hand mobility scooter.
If you can store your scooter close to a power socket it will make charging easier, although most scooters will allow you to remove the batteries and charge them elsewhere. Batteries can be heavy and may be the heaviest part of the scooter or buggy. You may need to think about this if you dismantle the scooter for transport or storage.
Establish a regular charging routine. How often you need to charge the batteries will depend on how frequently you use the scooter, and how far you travel in it when you do use it. It will also depend upon the terrain you drive over, the weight your scooter is carrying, the age of the batteries and so on.
If you use it daily, then overnight charging will be required. If you use the scooter less often, weekly charging may be sufficient. Charge the battery regularly, even if you do not use the scooter for an extended period of time. Avoid letting the batteries run completely flat and always fully charge them. Always use the proper charging cable.
Servicing and maintaining your mobility scooter
There are a number of things that you can do to maintain your scooter:
- Keep it dry. If you store it outside, get a waterproof storage cover for it.
- Keep it clean.Wash or wipe off any significant amounts of mud or dirt. Try to avoid driving over really wet, dirty or gritty areas. It is possible to damage the scooter’s motor if dirt or wet gets into the motor’s moving parts.
- Check the tyres. If your mobility scooter has pneumatic tyres, ensure these are kept at optimal pressure (check manufacturer’s advice). Check the tyres for wear and tear. At some point they may need replacing.
- Check the lights. If you have a scooter that can be used on the road, your lights must be in working order.
- Check the brakes. If at any time you feel that the strength or speed of the brakes is diminishing, arrange for it to be inspected.
A regular service will ensure that your mobility scooter is safe, both for you and for those around you, especially if you use your scooter on the road. It will also keep it in good working order for longer. It is advised that you get your mobility scooter serviced every 12 months as a minimum. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. Your supplier will also be able to advise you on this.
Taking your scooter on public transport
The Department for Transport guidance for users of mobility vehicles (2015) has information about taking your scooter on buses and trains. It is available here: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/411210/Mobility_Vehicle_Users_guidance.pdf
If you are planning any trip using public transport, you are advised to plan well in advance, making contact with any transport companies to ensure that mobility scooters are allowed, what the accessibility is like in any bus or train stations, what assistance might be available and what requirements might be made of you.
Some train providers offer a ‘Passenger Assist’ service, where free help can be arranged for getting on and off the train with baggage. You can book passenger assistance through National Rail Enquiries by calling 03457 48 49 50 or visiting their website.
More information about taking a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair on a train is available on the National Rail website. Train companies have different policies about carrying mobility scooters on trains. You can access the contact details and policies of all train operators from this site:
The Confederation of Passenger Transport and Department for Transport have developed a permit scheme and have produced a code of practice regarding the carriage of mobility scooters on low floor buses. This sets out the requirements for both bus service providers (drivers) and mobility scooter users. It defines which mobility scooters are allowed on buses and which are not. Class 2 scooters are generally allowed if they are within certain size limits (60cm by 100cm) and have been assessed as suitable. The user is then provided with a permit for travel. Class 3 scooters, which are significantly bigger and are designed to be able to go on the road, are not allowed.
You are advised to download and read the Code and to contact your local bus service provider. The Code is available to download from here:
www.cpt-uk.org//_uploads/attachment/3568.pdf. More information on taking mobility scooters on buses is available on the Rica website: www.rica.org.uk/content/mobility-scooters-buses
Transport for London has developed the Mobility Aid Recognition Scheme which has its own permit scheme, although London bus drivers should accept permits from other bus companies.
Transport for London offers a Travel Mentoring Scheme, offering advice on planning journeys and providing a mentor to go with you on your first few journeys. More information is available on their website tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/learn-to-use-public-transport or by telephoning 020 3054 4361.
Parking your scooter in public places
All normal parking restrictions apply to mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. You must ensure that you do not leave your mobility scooter in a place which would get in the way of other pedestrians, including wheelchair users and people with prams or pushchairs.
The Highway Code
Part of the Highway Code (Department for Transport 2016) provides rules for powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It is available on the Government website: www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/rules-for-users-of-powered-wheelchairs-and-mobility-scooters-36-to-46. A range of commercial organisations, manufacturers and police forces have produced user friendly versions of the Highway Code for scooter users. Some suppliers will provide a copy with your scooter.