Ballina’s growing number of motor-scooter users may soon have to license themselves as well as pay for insurance and registration before they ride their machines in public.
The town, with a sizable elderly population, is seeing a boom in users of mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs, and Ballina Shire Council is asking the state, through local government minister Don Page, to consider regulating them as in other states.
The boom has also seen a rise in inappropriate use of the vehicles on public footpaths, and of accidents.
A council report says that though the scooters had a social benefit by providing another means to increase independent access and transport to community facilities otherwise not available, there were safety concerns about, but limited regulation on their use.
The report says there’s a major upward trend in deaths and serious injuries among persons aged 60 years and older with falls, collisions with motor vehicles and objects and roll-overs being ‘common circumstances of injury’.
As a result of the growing trend, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently commissioned a study of injuries from the vehicles, which identified that design standards and education of motorised mobility-scooter drivers, particularly about sharing footpaths and road and the benefits of wearing safety helmets, should be addressed across Australia.
The council report says training and education of users and the wider community emerged from the study as major contributing factors to the safety of mobility scooters.
Council staff say its road safety officer has delivered road-safety education programs specifically for motorised scooter users including a recent project entitled ‘The Path is There to Share’, and scooter-safety workshops this month in conjunction with Seniors Week.
Wheelchair-bound mayor Phil Silver told Echonetdaily that motor scooters were booming in the town and ‘people come to Ballina to sell their motor cars and buy scooters; there’re even tandem scooters available’.
Cr Silver said he personally felt the issue was not being handled well by state legislation and that giving scooters all the rights of wheelchairs could be ‘problematic’.
‘There’s so many of them and they’re quite powerful. There’ll also be a problem with the aviation industry; a couple of foldup wheelchairs on flights to Sydney is fair enough but to give free carriage to scooters, you’ll suddenly find half a dozen people who would normally not take their scooters will want to fly with them as they won’t be charged,’ Cr Silver said.