E-Scooting May Have Legal Consequences

Richard Faulks

23 Oct 2020


  • Consumer Law
  • Personal Injury

Recent media reports highlight the latest transportation craze gripping the ACT – electric scooters, or ‘e-scooters’. However, reporters are not the only ones asking questions. The eccentric devices have been raising everyone’s eyebrows in recent months in the nation’s capital, and not just because of their flashy colourful frames. Naturally, people are wondering about the rules relating to their use.

Recently, ACT Policing Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman, highlighted that electric scooters will have similar legal requirements as bicycles or other vehicles, such as wearing a helmet. Further, those who scoot cannot do so under the influence of alcohol or drugs. See The Canberra Times October 22, 2020.

So exactly where, when and how can you e-scoot?

Electric scooters were an addition to the Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017 (ACT) in late December 2019. In that legislation, they are defined as ‘personal mobility devices’. This means the same rules apply for electric scooters as electric skateboards and Segways, which are already a well-known feature of Canberra’s urban landscape.

You are most likely to see these e-scooters zoom past as a purple or orange flash on bike paths and shared footpaths, however they are not restricted to these areas. Although police have stressed that those using electric scooters should only ride them on roads if there was no other alternative, there is no doubt that they will be seen on Canberra roads.

Different speed limits apply according to where you are e-scooting, however the devices are built with GPS tracking so that they are unable to break the speed limit, even if you try. The organisations providing these e-scooters, Beam and Neuron, have also set geographical limits on their use so they can only be used in central areas and Belconnen. Despite these limits, the e-scooters have no time restrictions, so users are free to ride whenever and for however long they are willing to pay.

What if you are involved in an accident with an electric scooter?

If you are injured while using an e-scooter, it appears that Beam and Neuron offer some personal accident insurance as part of the hiring fee. However, it is likely that insurance cover is quite limited and probably only extends to payments for serious injury and perhaps some medical expenses if an injury occurs.

A more significant issue may arise when an electric scooter causes an injury to a pedestrian. In such circumstances, if the rider of the scooter was negligent, that is failed to take proper care, it may give rise to a personal injury claim from the injured pedestrian against the rider. Unless the scooter itself was faulty, it is unlikely there would be any cause of action against the owners and providers of the scooter.

The negligent rider, however, may well be liable to pay compensation to the injured party in the same way as an uninsured motor vehicle driver. In some circumstances, the home contents or home insurance policy held by the individual may cover such liability under its public liability provision, but those matters would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It is clear that all e-scooter users will need to be careful in their interactions with other riders and  pedestrians to minimise the risk of personal liability. Further, in light of the comments by Detective Inspector Boorman, it is clear that the police may well take action against e-scooter users who fail to comply with road rules or other laws.

How can we help?

E-scooters are a new and exciting method of transportation in Canberra, but the rules surrounding negligence and personal mobility devices are already well-established. Fortunately, these rules are well-understood by our lawyers at SHG. If you would like help to navigate these rules or any other Personal Injury questions, contact our team on 02 6285 8000 or by email.