A mobility scooter provides freedom of movement even at an age where mobility becomes a problem. With a maximum allowed speed of 4mph on the pavement and 8mph on the road, mobility scooters are generally safe. That is not to mean that there is no danger at all.
Without the right skills and knowledge, you could be putting yourself and other road or pavement users in danger. As an introduction to mobility scooter driving, here are the basic rules and recommended guidelines for users of Class 2 and Class 3 mobility scooters.
1. Check the battery and tire pressure
Like a pilot does last minute checks on his airplane, you too have to check your scooter. The two most important areas to check on are the battery and tires. Make sure the battery has sufficient charge and if you are going on a longer journey, make sure it is fully charged.
A mobility scooter’s battery takes several hours to get charged up. So it is a good idea to leave it plugged in overnight. Next, check that the tires have the right amount of pressure. Less than the optimal pressure may cause the mobility scooter not to move as smoothly on the road and pavement.
2. Be comfortable
Comfort is absolutely essential in mobility scooter safety. Sit on the scooter and ensure that you can easily reach all controls without having to strain and don’t have to keep re-positioning as you drive.
For those who have yet to buy a mobility scooter (a brand new or second hand vehicle), make comfort a priority issue when you go shopping. It is always advisable to try out a scooter before you buy it.
When you feel comfortable enough place your hands on the handlebars, also called the tiller. Make sure your feet are safely positioned on the platform in front of you. A good mobility scooter should have adequate leg space to keep your feet from cramping up.
If the handlebars feel out of place, check whether your scooter allows you to make adjustments. You can move the seat forward or backwards. In other scooters, you can adjust the tiller upwards or downwards.
3. Learn the controls
Before you turn on the ignition (using the key), ensure that you are aware of what every control does. A lever on the handlebars is used to control speed. Informally known as a wig-wag, the lever allows you to accelerate or go in reverse. Practice using it for a while before getting outside with the scooter.
The tiller itself is used for steering and is operated by manipulating the handlebars. It is good practice to keep your hands on the handlebars all the time unless you are using the horn, accelerating or indicating.
As soon as you let go of the speed lever (wig-wag), electromagnetic brakes are automatically engaged and the scooter comes to a stop.
To familiarise yourself with all the controls, ride around your home until you are confident enough to get on the road or pavement.
4. Driving on pavements
On the pavement, pedestrians always have right of way. The first thing is to check that your speed is no more than 4mph. Where the crowds are thicker, you may need to lower your speed even further. Be respectful of other pavement users and be especially cautious about children running around.
When you come across a kerb, always approach it at a right angle. Do not attempt to navigate it if it is higher than the recommended height for your scooter. When you come across sharp corners, slow down to avoid tipping the scooter.
5. Driving on roads
Make sure you are using a Class 3 mobility scooter. It should be decked out with all the necessary safety components and features such as rear-view mirrors, horn and hazard lights. Additionally, you should not exceed 8mph.
Like any other vehicle, keep to the left, stop at a red light and allow pedestrians to pass at a zebra crossing. Avoid busy roads as they pose a bigger safety risk.
Also remember that Class 3 mobility scooters should not be driven on dual carriage ways or motorways with more than a 50mph speed limit. Neither should they be driven cycle lanes or bus lanes.
Note that Class 3 scooters need to be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) before they can be used on the road. You may also want to get insurance for your mobility scooter (whether Class 2 or 3) though it is not mandatory.