The Government recently published the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021 (the Bill) with the aim of regulating the use of e-scooters and e-bikes on Irish roads. The regulation of this area is long overdue as e-scooters are an increasing feature on Irish roads and pavements. While they have obvious advantages being an environmentally friendly mode of transport they are not without risk. There is a growing incidence of road traffic accidents and injuries caused by e-scooters.
Current legislative position
Some e-scooters are regarded as mechanically propelled vehicles (MPVs). The Road Traffic Act 1961 (RTA) define a MPV as including a vehicle with electrical propulsion.
If the scooter/bike can be propelled other than manually it is an MPV. Most pedal assisted electric bikes are not considered MPVs because when the person stops pedalling, the bike stops.
The law applies differently depending on the technical specifications of the scooter/vehicle. MPVs require the user to be insured, to have a road tax and to have a licence to use them. Currently, it is not possible to tax or insure e-scooters for use in a public place. Using e-scooters on the roads is not currently legal (until the expected legislation is passed). These anomalies have contributed to several grey areas if an accident occurs involving an e-scooter.
Accidents and e-scooters
If an e-scooter user is injured in an accident by a motor vehicle the user should obtain the details of the owner and user of the vehicle in the normal way. If the e-scooter user is involved in a road traffic accident which was caused by the negligent driving of a motor vehicle there is uncertainty at present that the user of the e-scooter would be afforded all of the protection of an individual who is legally using the roads. However, if an e-scooter user is involved in a road traffic accident with a motor vehicle, prior to the Bill being enacted, and the motor vehicle is prima facie at fault it would be difficult to conceive the e-scooter user not succeeding save for perhaps being found contributory negligent.
While it seems that most e-scooter users will not require insurance, it is envisaged that some entities renting e-scooters to the public will provide insurance for the use of the e-scooters. If the e-scooter does not require insurance and a road user (eg a pedestrian) suffers injury as a result of the negligent use of the e-scooter the claimant will have to seek to recover directly from the e-scooter user.
The RTA is being amended to introduce a new category of vehicle known as “powered personal transporters”.
The Bill provides a definition for “powered personal transporters (PPT)” which is described as being a vehicle:
- designed for carrying one person;
- with its maximum design weight as no more than 55 kilograms;
- its maximum design speed between 6kmph and 25 kmph;
- equipped with an electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power less than or equal to 0.25 kilowatts; and
- which is not a pedal bicycle, pedal tricycle, or designed for people with restricted mobility.
E-scooters fall within this proposed definition.
Notably the new Bill amends the definition of ‘vehicle’ to refer to ‘a PPT’, in addition to a MPV.
It also introduces a definition for an ‘autonomous vehicle’, seemingly in reference to self-driving cars, and includes the monitoring of such vehicles within the definition of ‘driving’.
The Bill explicitly provides for their use in cycle lanes and bans them on footpaths and motorways. They will also be exempt from toll schemes.
This Bill proposes to insert the category of PPT into some of the offences outlined in the RTAs and creates new separate standalone offences.
- e-scooter users will be prohibited from exceeding the speed limit;
- it will be an offence to drive a dangerously defective e-scooter, and a Garda will be entitled to demand the name of any e-scooter user that they suspect of having been involved in a traffic collision;
- it will be an offence to drive an e-scooter when under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent of being unable to control the scooter;
- supplying a PPT to someone who is under 16;
- driving a PPT while using a mobile phone or other information or "entertainment equipment.";
- driving a PPT while "hold[ing] on to any other vehicle which is in motion or hold on to any person or thing on, in, or attached to, any such vehicle.
It is proposed that the Finance Act be amended to include PPT within the definition of a MPV. This would allow the Minister to regulate in relation to the taxation of e-scooters.
Although the Bill is in its early stages and may be subject to change before it is enacted it will nonetheless provide welcome clarity for both e-scooter users and service providers.
For more information please contact Grace Murphy or your usual contact in Beauchamps.