It would be rare these days to find someone who hasn’t had a near miss or jump-scare from a passing e-scooter. In those moments, my thoughts quickly turn to what would have happened if they had of collected me – would I have hit my head? Ended up with broken bones? Would I have to take time off work and lose income? Or worse – what if it was my young daughter that was hit?
In April 2023, a small child suffered serious head injuries after being hit by an e-scooter that was travelling through a shopping centre precinct. Despite CCTV footage of the incident being available, the two riders fled the scene and were not identified.
New laws have been introduced to reduce the speed limit of e-scooter users to 12km/hour on footpaths or shared paths, and there are now significant fines in place for e-scooter speeding (up to $575 if over 30km/hour). However, the lack of resources and ability to track down offending users means that such laws are largely useless.
Further, the Queensland Transport Minister recently also introduced laws that requires e-scooter riders, who cause an accident or injury on a footpath or shared path, to remain at the scene. His rationale reportedly was that e-scooter riders should face the same post-crash responsibilities as drivers and cyclists, whether on the road or a path. Even if this is successful in obtaining the details of the person at fault, it is unlikely it will help someone who is injured to recover the costs of their medical treatment and loss of income.
Some are advocating for compulsory registration and insurance, which would allow those injured due to an e-scooter driver’s negligence to be covered in a similar way to the current CTP claim scheme. The Australian Lawyers Alliance (a body of mostly plaintiff injury lawyers) is calling for a review of the system to ensure appropriate insurance cover.
There have been similar arguments for years regarding the registration of bicycles to allow those injured from cyclists to claim against insurance. The difference between bicycles and e-scooters is the speed versus location argument. The e-scooter devices have the capability to travel at speeds higher than what we allow in school zones, and in areas where people are not expecting them to appear, or where people are not as vigilant as they would be when crossing a road.
If you head to a residential street close to the CBD, for example Petrie Terrace, you’ll find a wide footpath lining the street. Typically, children and neighbours would have been out on those pathways leisurely walking and stopping to talk to passers-by. Now you’ll find there no place for pedestrians, as e-scooters are flying past in vast numbers, taking over the pathways.
However, some have argued that introducing such safety measures will reduce the use of e-scooters.
With the bump that these devices have reportedly given the economy 3 and the desire for more affordable means of transport, it will be a hard balance to achieve.
Certainly, in our legal space we have seen an increase in accidents involving e-scooters. Generally, these accidents involve riders of the e-scooters being hit by a car or other vehicle whilst traveling on the road – which allows some prospect of compensation. Historically, pedestrian accidents unfortunately are much more serious in terms of injuries sustained and have more complex recoveries.
I hope that with the introduction of registration and insurance to cover these incidents, it would allow those injured, through no fault of their own, the ability to ensure they are able to access compensation, should that near miss turn into something much worse.