Are electric scooters legal Northern Ireland? Let’s discuss.
Electronic scooters have risen notably in popularity, offering an emission-free and economical method of travel. Retailers have enjoyed significant increases in sales as demand soars. However, with some models reaching in excess of 40mph, this trend has delivered a subsequent rise in related accidents. Over the course of a single year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there was an 82% rise in ambulances attending e-scooter related accidents.
Yet while e-scooters in England & Wales can be ridden in certain test zones and the UK government has announced that they will be made legal, e-scooters can only be used on private land in Northern Ireland. In other words, e-scooters, alongside miniature motorcycles and motorised scooters, cannot be used on public roads, footways or footpaths under The Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The only case where an e-scooter is permissible on public roads is where it is appropriately adapted as a ‘legitimate motor vehicle.’ This requires that the vehicle is fully taxed, insured and fitted with lights and a number plate. The rider must also hold a full driving licence and wear the necessary safety equipment during operation.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland
The PSNI has advised that operation contrary to regulations may result in a ‘hefty fine or vehicle seizure.’ Inspector Rosie Leech, from the PSNI’s Road Policing Unit, stated recently that those in breach ‘should expect to receive a formal warning as a minimum course of action.’ Therefore, while the law relating to e-scooters in Northern Ireland remains comparatively restrictive, the development of this legal grey area may be spurred on by the increasing demand for environmentally friendly methods of travel.
E-scooter accident liability in Northern Ireland
Despite the limitations on riding e-scooters on the streets of Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland, there is an undeniable increase in their prevalence. This raises the question, who is liable should an e-scooter become involved in a road traffic accident with another vehicle or pedestrian? Should another vehicle collide, or otherwise cause an accident, with an e-scooter then the road user at fault will be liable. The driver at fault’s insurer would likely raise the legality of the e-scooter, like one insurer did in a recent case. Ultimately, in the absence of legislation, the courts would need to decide on a case-by-case basis. In the meantime, the e-scooter rider may also face criminal charges.
If the accident was caused by the e-scooter rider, whether they collided with another vehicle or pedestrian, matters are a little more complicated. Although the e-scooter rider is liable, it is very unlikely that they have insurance, or that it would be covered by a home insurance policy, given the current legality of e-scooters in Northern Ireland. Should they not have the financial means to pay legal fees and compensation, pursuing a claim may achieve nothing more than bankrupting the e-scooter rider should they get issued with a conventional letter of claim. On the other hand, a person injured by an e-scooter rider could claim from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
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