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Somehow It's Legal to Drive a Mobility Scooter While Hammered in the UK

It sounds funny, but a surprising number of people are hurt by them.

by Megan Morgan
22 January 2015, 3:10pm

These people probably aren't drunk—but they could be and that would be totally legal. Photo via Wiki Commons

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that when a 47-year-old disabled man from Sunderland, England, was arrested for driving his mobility scooter while three times over the drunk-driving limit last June, it was because he was absolutely razzed off his face. But it wasn't. What saw him wind up in the magistrates' courts were the two young men who were riding the scooter with him—one hanging off the back, the other allegedly perched on his knee.

The charges against Colin Beven were dropped this week, after he told the court that the two men had jumped on his scooter as he passed them, rather than the more heart-warming image of a very drunk man offering a lift home to two lads at the end of a heavy night out.

Beven's attorney went on to tell the court, "Mr. Beven can drink as much as he wants, do whatever he wants with that scooter, as long as he does not carry passengers."

This is when the alarm bell starts to ring. We're all well aware that mobility scooters aren't nearly one of the scariest things you can bump into (they fall well below your ex's mom and "that teacher who really believed in you"), while they can only legally travel at four to eight miles per hour. So why the hell have more than 300 people been injured by mobility scooters in the UK over the last five years?

Colin Beven—however drunk he was—didn't actually hurt anyone. However, a quick internet search of "mobility scooter deaths" brings up a bunch of different news stories surrounding accidental deaths and injuries, 95 percent of which are the driver's fault.

One woman from Exeter suffered a fractured spine last year, after being the victim of a hit-and-run incident involving a man on a Rascal mobility scooter. She commented that, "It was like a scene from the film Bad Grandpa."

This kind of incident can only be exacerbated by drunk driving, which is not at all rare in the case of those with mobility scooters. One man in Croydon ploughed through a shop window in reverse while drunk at the wheel of his scooter, another woman in South Wales recently refused to be breathalyzed when driving hers dangerously. She claimed that she had "only two or three double vodkas" over lunch.

The last report published by the House of Commons Transport Committee claimed that there are over 330,000 mobility scooters in operation across the country, but as of yet there are no tests or regulations controlling who can use them, let alone laws that stop people driving them while hammered.

Again, there's no insinuation that this man is drunk—but he could be and that would still be fine! Photo via Geograph

Kevin Clifton, Head of Road Safety at the gallantly named Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) told me that "mobility scooters provide an important form of transport for people who might otherwise not be able to get out and about. However, as with all forms of transport, they create some risk, for both the user and for other people.

"Some road traffic laws—specifically regulations governing careless and dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the use of mobile phones while driving—should apply to mobility scooter users."

Clearly mobility scooters aren't a top priority in terms of legislation and they're also not the only modes of transport that benefit from the loophole: bikes, electric bikes, and even the riding lawnmowers that John Hughes made famous can be driven over the alcohol limit without breaking the law. Unfortunately, it will probably take a worse incident than Colin's to trigger a change in the law, so in the meantime, look both ways when crossing.