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The dangers of electric scooters

The use of electric scooters is becoming more widespread as the move towards electric vehicles continues. While commonly used on private land, government backed trials are being conducted in some UK cities and towns into their use.

However, while the use of electric scooters or “e-scooters” is rising, the laws regulating their use in public may not be well known. Users of electric scooters who are unaware of what the law says may find themselves in serious trouble should they be involved in an accident.

This was demonstrated at Nottingham Magistrates Court recently. A 14-year-old boy who had hit a pedestrian while riding an electric scooter on a public pavement, causing her death, pleaded guilty to “causing death by driving a vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence” and causing death by driving a vehicle while uninsured. Yesterday (8th March 2023) he was banned from driving for five years, along with a fine. He also received a community-based, age related order as a direct alternative to custody. It is worth noting that had an adult committed this offence, there would have been a greater risk of a custodial sentence.

What does the law say?

E-scooters fall within the legal definition of a motor vehicle. They are therefore subject to the same requirements that apply to any other motor vehicle under the Road Traffic Act 1998.

This means e-scooters must be taxed and insured like any other motor vehicle in order to lawfully use public roads or property. The rider must have at least a provisional driver’s licence. Relevant safety equipment such as a helmet must also be used. However, motor vehicle insurance is not available for privately owned e-scooters, which therefore cannot be used lawfully on public roads or property.

Currently, only scooters rented as part of an official government trial can be used on public roads or property. There are still a number of restrictions on their use.

E-scooters are forbidden under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Highways Act 1835 from using pavements, footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways, cycle tracks, cycle lanes on roads or other spaces dedicated to pedal cycle use only.

Some of these restrictions also apply to spaces which are accessible to the public, such as car parks, public squares, industrial estates and university campuses.

Electric scooters can be used on private land, but the user must have the landowner’s consent to do so. It is also important to remember that even if a road is privately owned, it will be considered a “public” road subject to the requirements of the Road Traffic Act if it can be accessed by the public.

For example: hotel grounds, caravan parks, leisure parks and marinas will often have privately owned roads that are used by the public. Similarly, privately owned residential roads or farm tracks in rural areas may be owned by residents or landowners, but are accessible to the public. These roads would be subject to the requirements of the Road Traffic Act, and the use of e-scooters would be unlawful unless part of an official trial.

The use of e-scooters can attract the same criminal offences as any other motor vehicle, from driving without insurance and driving without a licence to more serious offences such as dangerous driving or causing death by driving.

Offences can also be committed by “causing or permitting” the use of e-scooters in breach of the law. This is particularly relevant to companies considering leasing or hiring out e-scooters. The exception to this is when e-scooters are rented as part of an official trial.

Government trials of electric scooter rental

The government is considering reforming the law on electric scooters and has been running rental trials in several different areas since 2021. Results from these trials, which will run till May 2024, will inform the direction of future legislation.

Under the trial scheme, users who have a valid UK driving licence will be able to ride their rental scooters on roads and cycle paths. However, for all circumstances outside the trial schemes, using a privately owned electric scooter on public roads and pathways will remain illegal.

What are the dangers?

E-scooters are mostly prohibited from public areas until a bespoke legal framework can be implemented to safely regulate their use.

The Department for Transport’s statistics show that for 2022, collisions involving electric scooters increased by 38% to 1349, an increase from 978 the previous year. Of those collisions, 346 only involved the scooter.

The casualty figure – those killed or injured - for 2022 was 1437. Twelve people were killed in collisions, all but one of whom were riders. This is three times as many as were killed in 2021.

How might businesses be affected?

While the majority of electric scooters are owned and used by private individuals, some businesses are considering the use of e-scooters as part of their existing offering to clients and customers.

However, expert legal advice should be sought before doing so. rradar has already advised a number of clients in relation to the use of e-scooters.

Case studies

Private Hotel Grounds

A hotel investigates renting e-scooters to guests for use when travelling around the hotel grounds. While the roads and pathways on the hotel grounds are privately owned, they are easily accessible by the public, and would be likely fall under the definition of a road under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Use of e-scooters would therefore be unlawful.

Access Lanes

A garden building company operates premises spread over two sites a few hundred yards apart. A member of staff uses an electric scooter to move between the two sites, but in doing so, he rides onto an access lane that, although a cul-de-sac and little used, is still classed as a public highway as cars and vans use it to access residential properties further along. Travel along this lane would therefore be unlawful unless the e-scooter met all the legal requirements for a motor vehicle and was used as part of a recognised trial.

Docks and Marinas

A privately owned marina on a loch allows yacht owners to dock and store their yachts. An employee wishes to use an e-scooter to travel between the main office and the main storage shed at the end of the dock. There is no official trial operating in the small village where the marina is located. While the road between the main office and the storage shed is privately owned, it is regularly accessed by customers to access their yachts and park their vehicles. The area would therefore likely be considered a road under the Road Traffic Act and the use of e-scooters would be unlawful.


The consequences of a collision between a scooter and a pedestrian are enormous: a potential jail term for the individual scooter rider, an enormous fine for the organisation following a criminal or health & safety prosecution and even more significant civil damages from a personal injury claim which would potentially not be covered by insurance because the scooter user has broken the law.

If you are considering making use of electric scooters in your business and you are concerned about the legality of this, it is a very good idea to contact an experienced legal advisor as soon as possible. They can explain what the law is at present and what you need to do in order to comply with it.

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