Scooter safety is at the top of the agenda for a number of people within the mobility retail industry and has been for a number of years.
The focus surrounding the topic is usually to do with the user being trained to a sufficient standard but now, as is a similar problem for motorists, potholes and the general state of pavements in the UK is becoming a cause for concern following a number of related incidents.
The state of the roads in the United Kingdom has been a well-publicised problem for a number of years and more recently, it’s become apparent that footpaths are no better. This not only affects the entire public but specifically those who need a mobility aid whether it be a walking stick or a mobility scooter.
It has already taken a large amount of time for councils to get to work on repairing highways in local regions meaning it could be another lengthy wait before the pavements receive the treament they need too.
Looking more closely about what this means for the mobility sector, AMP has seen a number of reports detailing how the poor quality of roads has meant wheelchair users, mobility scooter users and people who depend on walking aids are becoming afraid to get out and about due to a fear of a potential injury.
As part of AMP’s research into the topic and what it could mean for the industry and local councils over the next few years, it found how a Buckinghamshire-based disability charity says it is ‘horrified’ at pavement condition outside a local supported living home.
A report in the Bucks Herald detailed how the footpaths that connect a supported living home in Aylesbury to local amenities are almost impassable and revealed how the issue has meant that some residents now fear going out.
This report came after concerned resident, Kirsten Read, who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is also registered blind, wrote in to the local paper.
She explained: “I am complaining about the big bumps on the path. I have back pain and it makes it worse when I have to go over the bumps in my wheelchair. Big bumps near the duck pond, nearly made my chair tip a bit and I could have fallen out! It makes me feel anxious and jumpy when there are bumps.”
After a trip out to see it for themselves, the local paper showed the photos to Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS).
BuDS responded saying: “BuDS is horrified by the state of these pavements. As a disability charity with an access project, we keep an close eye on these issues and these pavements are some of the worst we have seen in an urban area. Everyone including disabled people are entitled to live an independent life and it’s wrong that the highways authority is putting this barrier in the way of multiple wheelchair-users wanting to live an ordinary life.
“The pavement clearly hasn’t been maintained and is unsafe for everyone, not just disabled people. BuDS calls on Bucks CC to remember its Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires it to actively anticipate the needs of disabled people and make reasonable adjustments for them. In this case, highways repairs are clearly, and urgently needed.”
In response to the findings on the pavement condition, Bucks County Council, provided the following statement:
“Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) appreciates that there is, in certain areas, a legacy of difficult access sites, particularly on some estate roads which have been there for over 60 years. Many improvement schemes are delivered through funding sources such as Members’ Funds or the Local Area Forum – soon to be changing to Community Boards through the new Buckinghamshire Council – to improve footways, including dropped kerb provisions.
“TfB is reviewing current funding in this area. The Local Area Technician is more than happy to discuss specific areas of concern, and would support improvements where funding is available, this is as long as a safe location is feasible.”
Concluding: “Where we install new schemes, we need to take into consideration the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), to improve accessibility for all. If your reader wishes to call our customer service centre leaving their contact details, we will ensure that someone gets in touch with them.”
The problem seems to persist across the country too, with this story cropping up just days after a Scottish pensioner received hospital treatment after his mobility scooter hit a pothole in Glasgow.
David Harwood, 75, was left in an intensive care unit after the pothole sent his scooter into a busy road. A report by the Scottish Sun detailed how Harwood was given oxygen and morphine after last week’s accident and has now been transferred to the ICU ward.
His daughter Deniece, 40, said he explained to her what had happened when he was first admitted to the city’s Royal Infirmary.
She told the newspaper: “Dad said as he was coming to a junction he was zig-zagging to avoid potholes but he hit the last one and lost control. He panicked as he didn’t want to get run over. He managed to get back up and a junior doctor who was behind him went to his aid.”
The report went on to detail that Harwood’s family has threatened legal action if the council doesn’t make an effort to sort out the city-wide pothole problem for its residents.
A freedom of information request put in by the motoring organisation to the 212 councils in England, Scotland and Wales found 512,270 potholes were reported last year to 161 authorities which compared with 356,432 reported to 152 councils in 2015.
Back in 2014, Blue Badge Mobility insurance warned users not to accept standard “not our responsibility, guv” letters from councils rejecting pothole damage claims.
In response to the latest incident, Glasgow City Council commented: “We are very sorry to hear about Mr Harwood’s situation and our officers will look into this incident tomorrow.”
From accidents like this and the reporting of it, calls are made for scooter safety improvements which usually end up being aimed at the users and those dealing them and rightly so. But, in order to help the situation councils are going to have to have accessibility at the forefront of their decision making more and more.
Putting both approaches together to make them work hand in hand could be key in increasing safety for everyone and a mobility scooter safety program in Horsham has resumed recently with the aim of doing just that.
The Horsham Scooter Safety group has restarted after a break caused by wet and cold weather and according to the West Sussex County Times, the sessions will give tips and advice on how to stay safe.
The thinking behind the program follows the deaths of 13 people from accidents involving mobility scooters in 2018. It sets out to provide free 90-minute sessions in Horsham on Wednesday afternoons to help people understand the law affecting mobility scooters, how to act in an emergency, protecting personal items and how to safely carry shopping or other items.
Scooter tutors will have one on one time with each driver, accompanying them on a pavement tour, while advising on how to deal with different situations and obstructions.
On mobility scooter safety, volunteer tutor Tony Ediss, told the County Times: “Even experienced scooter drivers benefit from a safety session as it is easy to fall into bad driving habits and a reminder of better ways could help avoid an accident. Reports of scooter accidents regularly appear in the newspapers and we know that with a bit more care, most could have been avoided.”
He added: “We recommend a session with us before buying a scooter as it can help in choosing and gives a person a good grounding in basic scooter safety. There is no cost to a scooter driver, other than giving up 90 minutes of their time. Their gain is added safety.