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Minister steps back from new scooter laws

The government appears to have backed away from introducing new laws that could have forced users of mobility scooters and powered wheelchair to take out insurance, undergo training and take proficiency tests.

Two years ago, the previous government launched a consultation on possible reforms aimed at modernising the law on mobility vehicles.

The consultation document pointed to a “growing concern” about safety – particularly with scooters – although it said evidence suggested a “very low” number of injuries.

Responding to the subsequent consultation – which ended in May 2010 – Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, said he would be meeting with “interested parties” to review the evidence on insurance, training, and the possibility of mandatory eye tests for users of class three scooters – those that travel at up to eight mph.

He said: “I am conscious of the crucial role such vehicles play in some people’s lives and that will be an important factor in deciding what further actions, if any, to take.”

Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK, said: “Our policy is that insurance should be compulsory because of the kind of problems people get into when they do not have insurance, such as injuring other people.”

But she said it would not be easy to introduce compulsory insurance, as there would probably also need to be some kind of driving test and licensing system for scooter-users. She added: “We are very much in favour of training. People need to take responsibility for themselves and should seek training if they feel they need it.”

Dolphin said Disabled Motoring UK would continue to call on the government to introduce compulsory insurance.

Baker also said he had decided to make no changes to maximum permitted speeds or the current minimum age of 14 for using a class three vehicle. But he did announce that the government would replace the outdated term “invalid carriage” in legislation.

And following recommendations by the transport select committee, Baker said the Department for Transport was now working with the industry to develop a kite-marking scheme that would let disabled people know in advance if they would be able to use their scooters on buses and trains.

Dolphin said she would be in favour of a kite-marking scheme if it helped cut the large number of scooter-users who are unfairly refused entry onto public transport. Baker also announced the publication of new guidance for users of mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs on the road.

News provided by John Pring at