Time to put the skids on mobility scooters
THE speed limit for mobility scooters could be slashed amid claims they are a menace on footpaths and are even used to dodge drink-driving bans.
Brisbane City Council wants the scooter limit reduced from 10km/h to a fast walking pace of 6km/h, and has demanded that the State Government introduce "basic licences" to ensure that riders are physically and mentally fit to be behind the handlebars.
Mobility scooters have become so popular the council also warned it must widen footpaths to keep pedestrians safe.
The push comes amid a federal parliamentary investigation into the safety of the devices, sparked after one hit National Party Senator John Williams' wife Nancy on a footpath, leaving her in need of a hip replacement.
Standards Australia has drafted new rules that would force scooters to have a "low speed switch" limiting them to 5km/h in pedestrian zones.
But Nundah's Andrew Staszek, 66, who ensures he rides courteously, slammed the push as "a joke".
"I think they should leave the speed the way it is,'' Mr Staszek, whose wife has been using a scooter for about a decade, said. "It is a joke … you might as well not have a scooter," he said.
Council infrastructure chairman Amanda Cooper said mobility scooters should be limited to 6km/h in pedestrian zones "to ensure safety for all''. "Council (has also) proposed that state governments consider a basic licencing process to monitor users' physical and cognitive ability to drive a scooter safely, with the frequency specified by their doctor," she told The Courier Mail.
The Pedestrian Council of Australia warned that some users of mobility scooters might be dodging drink-driving bans. "There are loopholes for alcoholics and drug addicts to get hold of them,'' Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby said yesterday.
"People don't seem to have any training to use them, and they also drive out on the road where they are difficult to see.''
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A Queensland Police spokesman said: "Under certain circumstances, individuals may be charged for operating their mobility scooter or wheelchair while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.''
Standards Australia draft new rules allow scooters and wheelchairs to travel up to 10km/h - but switch to low speed in pedestrian zones. Austroad, the agency representing Australia's traffic departments, says the switch will prevent users from "accidentally speeding into trouble''.
Standards Australia has also proposed a 300kg weight limit - including the rider - for powered wheelchairs and scooters, after Brisbane City Council warned some were too heavy for ramps on buses and ferries. "As many users do not have sufficient balance or strength, there have been reports of mobility scooters tipping as buses corner, putting both the user and other passengers at risk of injury,'' the council told the inquiry.
"There is no process to assess scooter users' strength, cognitive ability or vision before they begin using the scooter or in following years as their condition may decline.''
The council says Austroad will need to change the standard width of footpaths from 1.2m, "given the increasing number of mobility scooters''.
A State Department of Transport spokeswoman said it would consider any recommendations for improvements.
She said scooters used in public areas must be registered and speed limited to 10km/h.
The Queenslanders with Disability Network has said it "strongly opposes the enforcement of strict regulations that impinge on the mobility, freedom of movement and rights of people with disability''.