A 20-year-old woman in Newport, Isle of Wight was found to be nearly three times over the legal limit of alcohol while driving an e-scooter, industry experts debate the insurance implications 

The sales and use of electric scooters (e-scooters) is increasing, which is in turn is exacerbating claims, however privately owned e-scooters remain illegal and uninsured on Britain’s roads.

This is according to Vikki Melville, member of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers’ (FOIL) motor and sector focus team, and partner at Clyde & Co.

She told Insurance Times: “Firstly, it must of course be noted that there are ongoing trials for the rental and use of e-scooters in the UK.

“In order to use e-scooters in the trial, insurance is provided by the rental company, and users must hold a full or provisional driving licence.

“However, issues of perception around the use and safety of e-scooters are likely to be contributing to both their illegal use and increased claims.”

It follows Kyah Jordan, a 20-year-old woman in Newport, Isle of Wight being found to be nearly three times over the legal limit of alcohol on an e-scooter, as reported in the Metro.

In December 2020 she jumped a red light almost colliding with an unmarked police car, magistrate Peter Redding ordered the woman to carry out 40 hours of community service, meanwhile Isle of Wight police stated that the “use of e-scooters while intoxicated would not be tolerated”.

Significant implications

Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs at law firm BLM, said: “The conviction would have significant implications for Jordan should she apply for motor insurance after her two-year ban expires.

”She’ll have to disclose the conviction and the sentence, which will inevitably affect the cost and availability of cover.

While Melville said that “ease of availability is also an issue”.

“E-scooters can be purchased both online and in shops, costing from £200 upwards, bringing them within reach of teenagers.

”Small print on many websites that e-scooters ‘are not to be used on public roads or pavements,’ are clearly ignored, with many positive reviews identifying commuting benefits, she said.

“Whilst the aim has been to regulate e-scooters in a similar fashion to electrically-assisted pedal cycles, it is possible that the outcome of the trials, combined with increasing accident numbers may force a rethink.”

No trigger

Meanwhile, Kinley, added: “Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and nothing appears to have been damaged by Jordan’s drink-driving of the e-scooter, despite the report of a near miss with a police car.

“In the absence of any injury or damage, the motor policy covering the hire scheme won’t be triggered. It’s worth remembering a pre-condition of scooter trials being authorised is that the sponsoring local authority or the scooter provider must arrange for conventional motor cover to be in place.”

It was claimed in court that Jordan was driving so slowly that she would not have posed a danger, however magistrates said that an e-scooter is a motor vehicle “the same as a moped, the same as a bus”.

Kinley agreed: “Her [Jordan’s] recent conviction reinforces what should be an obvious point – that e-scooters are motor vehicles, and their riders are subject to the requirements of the law and the Highway Code in the same way as car drives and motorcyclists.”

Meanwhile, Melville alluded to the limited speed of e-scooters, to approximately 15mph which is also likely to generate complacency by users in terms of where they can be used and risks to others.

She continued: “The government’s own guidance states that whilst users should be used whilst driving an e-scooter, they are not a legal requirement. This is akin to helmet requirements for pedal cycles, compared to the mandatory use involved in using a moped or motorcycle. “

Dangerous cocktail

Jordan said that it was the first time she had ridden an e-scooter. Melville added: “E-scooters do not need to be registered or display registration plates. Similarly, as they are illegal on public roads save for the trials, there is no compulsory insurance requirement.

“This in itself indicates a more casual regulatory approach to the use of e-scooters. This, combined with users’ inexperience, is a dangerous cocktail.”