If insurance is not in place and an accident occurs, who will pay the claim?
The Road Traffic Act (RTA 1988) could need some changes should e-scooters be legalised on UK roads as it is uncertain who will pick up the tab for claims should an accident happen.
Therefore whether insurance should be compulsory or not needs to be clarified, according to Biba’s executive director Graeme Trudgill.
He told Insurance Times: “It’s all to play for at the moment, the government wants to bring it forward, but the worrying thing is if the Motor Insurer’s Bureau are responsible for all the work-related claims.
”So we need to get the premium in so we can pay the claims, but there needs to be some change to the RTA.”
Biba has backed the use of e-scooters, having mentioned the issue in its 2020 manifesto.
He gave the example of how different countries around the world were handling the insurance issue – such as in Germany all riders must have insurance but a driving licence is not required whereas in Spain insurance is recommended but not compulsory; and in Japan e-scooters are termed as mopeds and require insurance, a crash helmet and driving licence.
“[In] motor insurance law now, the Road Traffic Act (RTA) isn’t suitable for the current interpretation of the legal cases that have happened.
”But also, you have all these e-scooters on the streets now, and they don’t have insurance,” Trudgill added.
It follows plans to fast-track trials for e-scooters on Britain’s roads have been unveiled in a bid to prevent overcrowding on public transport and the further spread of coronavirus. As well as prime minister Boris Johnson setting out a strategy to tackle coronavirus in its next phase.
One in ten
The e-scooter trial will be extended from just four local authorities to every region in the country, with the intention of reducing car use for short journeys and relieving the pressure on buses.
The government will invest £2bn in green travel which include e-scooters as it comes to light that there will be room for just one in ten passengers on public transport.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP set out this programme on 9 May to prepare the UK’s transport network and prevent it from being overwhelmed.
He said: “The need to maintain social distancing means that our public transport system cannot go back to where it left off.
“Even with public transport reverting to full service - once you take into account the 2-metre social distancing rule – there would only be effective capacity for one in ten passengers on many parts of the network.
“Just a tenth of the old capacity. Getting Britain moving again, whilst not overcrowding our transport network, represents another enormous logistical challenge.”
Balance of risks
However, Alistair Kinley, director of government affairs and policy at law firm BLM told Insurance Times that permitting the legal use of e-scooter on roads should be a decision based on the balance of risks and benefits.
Kinley said: ”Sure, there are upsides to their use but the risks to other road users are obvious. The key policy question surrounding those risks is whether to compel the transfer of the associated financial consequences by introducing compulsory insurance and, if so, at what level of protection?”
“Imposing a fully-fledged private motor insurance policy model for e-scooter use intuitively feels disproportionate but on the other hand allowing for insurance to remain purely voluntary, as in the case of bicycles - even if strongly recommended - does feel inadequate. It’s not yet clear what a middle ground might look like - and it could be complicated if we have to work around the EU Motor Insurance Directive - meaning there’s a great opportunity, right now, for government, insurers and others to collaborate on developing appropriate insurance solutions that are properly calibrated to the risks involved and don’t impose financial or other barriers to take-up,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ben Pepper, associate at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp said: ”Insurance for e-scooters should be mandatory, so that those who are involved in collisions with them can be properly compensated without delay. Whilst it would be beneficial to see the number of cars on the road decrease, we must avoid the situation where a large volume of people are using motorised vehicles on the roads without insurance.
”Furthermore, e-scooters should also have to meet certain minimum safety standards. The public needs to be made aware of what those standards are and whether the e-scooter that they are using complies with those standards.
“As well as insurance and safety standards, the government must give thought to a variety of other vital considerations.”
For example he added, e-scooters can be ridden, whether riders should undergo some form of driving test or at least be able to demonstrate knowledge of the Highway Code, whether riders should be of a minimum age and whether helmets should be compulsory.”
This is because there are features of e-scooters that arguably make them more dangerous to ride than bicycles, Pepper said.
”They have smaller wheels and they are capable of reaching constant high speeds with no human effort whatsoever. Serious injuries and fatalities have already occurred, as a result of the e-scooter collisions. It is therefore important that, when e-scooter trials commence, there are also regulations in place to ensure the safety of the riders and those around them.
”These important questions require careful thought and regulation before e-scooters are legalised, otherwise we could see an increase in the number of injured road users with restricted access to compensation,” Pepper said.
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