Call for a crackdown on rebels on four wheels
Dangers... Holroyd Council wants to tame scooter users. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
YVETTE WHITFIELD admits to the rare occasion when she lets a rush of wind blow through her hair while taking her mobility scooter out for a spin. ''Only on a windy day,'' she said.
But the speed and manner with which some of her fellow users make the most of such vehicles has convinced the western Sydney councillor it is time for the government to step in.
Holroyd Council wants the state government to make it mandatory for all motorised mobility scooter owners to obtain a ''certificate of ownership and competence'' before getting behind the wheel.
Cr Whitfield is confident the state's councils will support the idea when Holroyd puts it to them at the Local Government Association's conference in Dubbo this month.
It wants the government to come up with a clear regulatory distinction between those who are required by law to share the footpath: pedestrians who can walk and those who rely on either a mobility scooter or motorised wheelchair to get around.
Holroyd has already sought to address the ''public hazard'' posed by mobility scooters with a series of workshops for local users, who are limited by law to travel at no more than 10km/h. Some mobility scooters can reach 15km/h.
Cr Whitfield, who has used a scooter for two years, had regularly spotted one resident driving in traffic. ''They get onto a scooter and they think: 'This is great I can do anything I want.' But the thing is it can be very, very dangerous.''
More than 700 people were taken to hospital in Australia because of injuries involving mobility scooters in one two-year period, Monash University estimates. There were more than 60 deaths in the past decade.
Nor were the risks limited to users. Tina Belogiannis said her then 78-year-old mother, Vicki Validakis, fractured one of her vertebrae five years ago when she was knocked down at a Smithfield pedestrian crossing by a person on a mobility scooter who then fled the scene.
''The lady ran off. We were lucky we tracked her down,'' she said.
Mrs Validakis, who was left in a body brace for months, was told by her insurer it was not obliged to compensate her as she was struck by a non-registrable vehicle. It relented on compassionate grounds.
The incident raised questions about whether scooters should be registered, Mrs Belogiannis said. The only state that does so, at no cost to users, is Queensland.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which estimates half of about 231,000 Australians who use mobility devices are under 60, has formed a group to explore issues related to their use. But it has already said there was a need to better integrate them into the community.
A spokesman for the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said the government would investigate separate road rule definitions for motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters. He said there were no plans for a ''complex and expensive'' registration scheme but measures by councils to identify user numbers would be supported.