Getting to grips with an indoor mobility scooter – one man’s first-hand account

How many of you own a mobility scooter? RoSPA believes that outdoor mobility scooters fulfil a valuable and important function. However, as with all forms of transport, using mobility scooters create some risk, for both the users and for other people. We occasionally receive calls from people concerned about being nearly knocked down by mobility scooters in the street, and although these calls are relatively low in number, they do occur regularly.

mobility scooter injuries accidents

RoSPA believes that outdoor mobility scooters fulfil a valuable and important function. However, as with all forms of transport, using mobility scooters create some risk, for both the users and for other people.

There is little hard evidence about the extent of accidents and injuries involving outdoor mobility scooters, beyond occasional reports, and this makes it difficult to identify the most effective ways at preventing mobility scooter accidents. The Government recently committed to collecting more data and this is welcomed, as it will help to develop current initiatives to be more effective at preventing mobility scooter-related injuries and accidents.

We spoke to 87-year-old Dennis Brooks, who got in touch to share his experience of using indoor mobility scooters. This is his story:

“With the growing preponderance of elderly people in our population today, I would imagine statistics would show a matching increase in the number of accidents in the home.

Certainly I, an 87-year-old semi-invalid, now recognise the necessity for greater mental awareness in simple manoeuvres such as getting up from a chair, but many of us have also to consider various illnesses such as diabetes which can affect one’s balance or other abilities.

In recent years, this coming to terms with an ageing body has been accompanied with a desire to compensate: if I can’t move like I used to, let’s find some form of transport. And while we’re at it lets have some fun.

There are a wide range of scooters available today and the market is of course growing, especially in the second-hand section! I chose a lightweight model which enables me to get around the house as well as the garden and can be dismantled into four sections which can fit in the car boot. It cost £400 second-hand when new models were around £1,400. Today, I see it is available at £400 new. From the safety viewpoint, the first priority is to recognise that scooters, especially the lighter, nippier ones are more like a motorcycle to ride than a car: you have to be aware of your bodyweight, and there are no brakes, unless you have a class III which can be driven on the road under license, but those are not so suitable for home use.

Scooters are battery driven, and there is a very noticeable difference in handling them when the battery is freshly charged. The torque in the driving wheels can be quite surprising so that an unthinking driver might feel he’s had a good push in the back. This dissipates after a while, but it’s in a very dangerous state. More important I feel is the design of the forward/reverse controls. Looking along the handlebars from the side view of my scooter, these controls are around the ‘five o’clock’ position immediately in front of the user. When I want to reach a cupboard on the wall say, I sometimes stand up on the platform of my mobility scooter and l have been in a position many times when my clothing has touched the forward control. Yes, yes, of course. I should have switched off the controls, but as many people keep telling me: “You’re getting on a bit now, your memory’s going!” True. Which is why I feel the designers should take another look at this.”

Some guidance from our public health adviser Sheila Merrill:

It is important that professional advice is sought before buying any type of mobility scooter. If you intend to use an indoor mobility scooter, look around your home beforehand to make sure that you have the room to move around on it safely and that it will not be blocking any obvious escape routes. Walkways and main movement areas will need to be kept clear of clutter, it may also be best to remove rugs to allow for easier movement.

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