As per a report by The Australian Network on Disability (AND), over 4 million people in Australia have some form of disability, i.e. 1 in 5 people.
We often take mobility for granted, but for a person with a disability, it can be difficult to access all kinds of spaces. Being mobile improves a person’s ability to interact with others, participate in the community, learn new things and earn a living. In fact, the Australian government help and support people with disabilities by providing more accessible facilities. For people with mobility impairments, mobility scooters are available to provide support, motion and access which enable them to lead an active and pleasing life.
However, mobility scooters should be used after proper training and information. As stated by Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), at least 62 Australians mostly in their 60s to 90s have died from mobility scooter collisions or falls. While mobility scooter users need cooperation from other riders and pedestrians to safely ride their scooter, operating it carefully is also essential. Using care and cautions can keep the rider and pedestrians safe from unwanted collisions.
The report from ACCC also stated that hundreds of aged people visit the hospital each year due to serious head wounds and injuries to hips and limbs as a result of losing control or falling from their mobility scooter. If you use or are thinking of using a mobility scooter, here are few tips that can ensure you stay safe on your mobility scooter.
#1 Choosing the right mobility scooter
Before you make a purchase, don’t forget to have an assessment done by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. This will make sure that that the scooter you choose suits your needs. Most of the mobility scooter suppliers also offer free in-home demo for you to try different scooters before making the purchase.
Three-wheeled scooters are light-weight, offer maximum manoeuvrability and are ideal for indoor use. These scooters are easier to turn and ride around obstacles. However, three-wheeled scooters are less stable than four-wheeled scooters and thus are not suggested for outdoor usage.
Four-wheeled scooters are ideal for travelling outdoors. As compared to three-wheeled scooters, four-wheeled scooters need to steer carefully to avoid obstacles.
#2 Train and practice before riding a mobility scooter in public
Before taking your scooter anywhere, get to know about it. Find a suitable place, like a quiet parking lot to test ride your mobility scooter and practice manoeuvres like reversing, turning, getting in-out in various situations. Sufficient practice enables you to avoid hazardous situations like running into pedestrians, light poles, store shelves, etc.
Before you operate your scooter into the public places, make certain that you are able to
- Steer and control mobility scooter
- Sit for long periods
- Get in and out of the scooter without falling
- Easily get the vehicle in and out of its storage space
- Judge distance and recognise hazards and obstacles in the path
- Maintain and shift balance while riding over up and down slopes or rough terrain
Additionally, make certain to read the user manual and other information that is provided with the scooter. Your therapist can also suggest other methods to help you get around.
#3 Be visible
Always consider that when you are riding your mobility scooter, you are at a height that might not be visible to the pedestrians and other road users. Ensure that other motorists and pedestrian can see you by adding these safety features:
- Attach a fluorescent orange safety flag to the back of your scooter that’s high enough for motorist and cyclist to see. You can easily get these from any bike shop.
- Wear bright coloured clothes
- Ensure that your scooter has a white light at the front, a red light at the back and reflective strips for times when there is less daylight.
#4 Wear a helmet
Unfortunately, head injuries are a common cause of the deaths reported due to mobility scooter collisions. It is highly recommended to always stay protected by wearing a helmet. This reduces the risk of head injury, especially while riding the scooter on sidewalks and streets.
#5 Ride at the right speed
As stated in the Australian Road Rules, the maximum speed of the mobility scooters cannot exceed 10 km/h. Additionally, be very careful while riding over rough terrain or in crowded areas. It is wise to always travel at the lowest possible speed to avoid collisions and accidents.
#6 Plan your route beforehand
When you are new to operating a mobility scooter in the public places, it’s always considered wise to learn about all the possible obstacles on your route. Check that the route you chose is suitable for a mobility scooter and if possible, select quieter streets to avoid foot and rood traffic.
#7 Follow the rules
As per the Australian Road Rules, a person using a mobility scooter is classified as a pedestrian. Thus, when you are riding your scooter on a roadway, you must follow the rules for pedestrians. It includes:
- Wherever possible, use sidewalks
- If there are no accessible curb cuts on the sidewalks, travel on the left side of the road facing traffic
- Cross at pedestrian crosswalks.
- Follow all the traffic control signs
#8 Don’t drink and ride
If you have been drinking alcohol, it’s safest to travel by taxi. ACCC research shows that cases of many serious injuries and deaths have resulted from the situations where mobility scooter riders were under the alcohol influence.
#9 Keep your mobility scooter well-maintained
You need to carry out regular maintenance on your mobility scooter to make certain that the tyres are in good working condition, all the lights are working properly, the electrical system is working at its best and the battery is fully charged. It is wise to hire a professional technician to whom you can trust with all your scooter maintenance needs.
#10 Always stay safe
Though there are plenty of lights and reflective strips on your mobility scooter, never assumes that the riders see you. Precaution is better than cure, thus it’s highly advisable to always make the eye-contact with them before crossing the path.
Additionally, don’t overload your scooter with groceries and other goods. This may disturb the balance of the scooter. Also, it is highly recommended to always carry a mobile phone in case you need to contact anyone in an emergency.
Following the above-mentioned tips will keep you and others around you safe. Take precautions all the time and stay safe.