Regulations governing the use of motorised mobility devices
This chapter outlines the current regulations that govern the use of motorised
mobility devices – including mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs –
throughout Australia. The chapter also summarises the state and territory road
rules which determine which motorised mobility devices are permitted to be used
on footpaths, roads, bike-paths and in other public spaces.
Also outlined in this chapter is the process by which the ARRs are
developed, maintained and administered.
Australian Road Rules
The ARRs contain the basic rules of the road for motorists,
motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians, passengers and others. The ARRs were
first approved in 1999 by the former Australian Transport Council (now known as
the Transport and Infrastructure Council).
The ARRs have been designed as model laws (or template legislation) and have no
legal effect. State and territory governments do have the ability to adopt the
ARRs in ways that suit their own specific, local conditions. For the most part,
states and territories have introduced the ARRs into their own laws. However, no
state or territory has introduced every provision contained in the ARRs into
legislation, and there are a number of provisions in the Rules that
specifically leave certain matters to state and territory governments to
Motorised mobility devices
The ARRs regulate the use of 'motorised wheelchairs'
on roads or road-related areas such as footpaths. A motorised wheelchair which
is not able to travel faster than 10 km/h on level ground is recognised under
the ARRs as a pedestrian.
This means that users are subject to the general road rules applying to
pedestrians, including rules which:
require pedestrians to use the footpath or nature strip adjacent
to a road where there is one which can be used safely, and not travel on the
road in these circumstances;
prohibit pedestrians from causing a traffic hazard by moving into
the path of a driver; and
regulate the use of shared paths with bicycles.
A motorised wheelchair that can travel faster than 10 km/h on level
ground is treated as a vehicle,
which means that the person using the device is treated as a driver,
who is subject to all of the road rules applying to drivers of vehicles.
Under the ARRs
vehicles are prohibited from being driven on paths (including footpaths,
bicycle paths and shared paths). There is, however, an exception for a driver
of a motorised wheelchair, provided that he or she complies with the following
the unladen mass (or TARE) of the wheelchair is not over 110 kg;
the wheelchair is not travelling over 10 km/h;
because of the driver's physical condition, the driver has
reasonable need to use a wheelchair; and
the driver gives way to all other road users (including
pedestrians) and animals on the path.
State regulations governing the use of motorised mobility devices
As previously noted, states and territories are able to use the ARRs as the
framework for their own legislation, or can adapt them to meet specific, local
conditions. While to a large degree Australian states and territories have used
the ARRs as a basis for their own laws, identifying any subtle differences is
not a simple task. The rules in relation to motorised mobility devices are
complex and there is a lack of consistency in relation to whether a transport,
health or disability agency has responsibility for administering the system or
providing guidance on the rules.
New South Wales
Under the NSW Road Rules, a person using a mobility device
is defined as a pedestrian. Under NSW law, users of a mobility device are not
required to register the device, but must comply with NSW Road Rules which
the user must not travel faster than 10 km/h on level ground;
the mobility device must not exceed 110 kg unladen;
the user must not travel on the road unless it is impractical to
travel on the footpath or nature strip next to the road;
the user must keep as far to the side of the road as possible and
face oncoming traffic if no footpath is available;
the user must not use the mobility device with a blood alcohol concentration
of 0.05 or more.
In NSW, there is no test or requirement for a special licence. Users
must, however, be unable to walk or have difficulty in walking to be able to
lawfully use a motorised wheelchair on a footpath, public road or in a road related
South Australia's regulations are based on ARRs, which state that a
person using a motorised mobility scooter
is classed as a pedestrian if the maximum speed on level ground cannot exceed
10 km/h. As such the user:
must observe the same road rules that apply to pedestrians;
must not obstruct the path of any driver or other road user;
must not travel along a road if there is a footpath or nature
strip adjacent to the road, unless it is impracticable to travel on the
footpath or nature strip;
must keep as far to the side of the road as possible if
travelling along the road and travel facing the approaching traffic (unless it
is not practicable to do so);
can use shared paths, off-road bike paths, and shopping malls.
Under the Road Safety Act 1986 and the Victorian Road Safety
Road Rules 2017, motorised mobility devices, including mobility scooters
and motorised wheelchairs:
are not defined as motor vehicles (and therefore cannot be
must have a maximum capable speed of 10 km/h on level ground and
a maximum unladen mass of 110 kg;
are to be used only by a person with an injury, disability or
medical condition which means they are unable to walk or have difficulty
Users of a vehicle defined as a motorised mobility device, are required
to follow the same rules as pedestrians. These rules include travelling on the
footpath (unless this is impractical) and only using the road where an
appropriate footpath or nature strip is not available. If there is no footpath
available to use, users must travel facing oncoming traffic.
Currently, under Victorian regulations, rules and standards, mobility
scooters and motorised wheelchairs are treated equally.
The Tasmanian Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999, defines a motor
vehicle as a vehicle that is built to be propelled by a motor that forms part
of the vehicle if the power output is greater than 200 watts and can reach a
speed greater than 10 km/h. This definition includes power wheelchairs and
mobility devices capable of exceeding 10 km/h. This type of vehicle must be
registered if used in an area defined as a 'public street' – recognised as both
private and public land, and including recreational areas, parks and beaches.
A mobility scooter that is not classified as a motor vehicle under the
traffic regulations – that is one which is restricted to travel less than 10
km/h – is classified as a pedestrian and is required to obey pedestrian laws.
Specifically, the scooter is required to be driven on footpaths and is subject
to pedestrian rules for crossing roads.
The Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services noted that there
is currently no legal requirement for education surrounding the safe use of
non-registrable vehicles, including powered mobility devices.
Western Australia's Road Safety Commission notes that mobility scooters
or devices give independence to people who have difficulty walking due to a
physical condition. While the Road Safety Commission stresses that mobility scooters
are not meant to be used as a replacement for a motor vehicle, it also notes
that there are currently no laws prohibiting or governing the use of mobility
scooters by people who do not have limited mobility.
Under Western Australia's current traffic laws, users of mobility
scooters and motorised wheelchairs are classed as pedestrians, provided the
maximum speed of the equipment is 10 km/h. Those devices capable of travelling
faster than 10 km/h must be registered as vehicles.
Mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs are allowed to travel on:
shared paths; and
the sides of roads if there is no footpath.
The Queensland Government requires that if a mobility scooter or motorised
wheelchair is being used outside of the home – for example on a footpath – the
person using the device is considered to be a pedestrian under the Queensland
Under the Queensland Road Rules, a person using a mobility scooter or
motorised wheelchair, or any other pedestrian must:
use the footpath or nature strip where available;
[if there is no footpath or nature strip available, or there is
an obstruction that needs to be avoided] the person must travel as close as
possible to the left or right hand side of the road – and should face oncoming
traffic if possible;
cross a road by the most direct route and use a crossing where
In addition to these general rules, a person using a mobility scooter or
a motorised wheelchair must also exercise due care and attention for the safety
of others at all times, including travelling at an appropriate speed.
Under Northern Territory legislation, motorised mobility devices are
treated as pedestrians (in accordance with the ARRs) provided that the device
cannot travel at a speed of more than 10 km/h. Under these regulations, the
user of a motorised mobility device may ride on the footpath where available,
and can only travel on the road to cross by the most direct route.
Under Northern Territory legislation, a motorised mobility device cannot
legally be driven on a road. It was noted, however, that in remote areas, where
there is a lack of footpath infrastructure these devices are frequently used on
roadways, where technically they are not permitted to be used. It was
acknowledged, however, that users have few other options to access services in
the community if they are not able to use a motorised mobility device.
The Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and
Logistics noted that one of the key issues raised during its consultation with
the Northern Territory community had been the lack of clear definitions in
relation to motorised mobility devices, including where they can be legally
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has adopted the ARRs,
through the application of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic
Management) Regulation 2000. While mobility scooters and motorised
wheelchairs are usually differentiated by both construction and users, they are
generally treated equally under existing ACT regulations, as 'motorised
In the ACT, a pedestrian includes a person driving a 'motorised
wheelchair' that cannot travel at over 10 km/h (on level ground). As such, the
user of a mobility scooter or motorised wheelchair is provided the same rights
and responsibilities as an ambulant pedestrian.
The ACT regulations provide that a person may use a motorised wheelchair
on a path if:
the unladen mass of the wheelchair is not over 110 kg;
they are not travelling at over 10 km/h; and
because of their physical condition, the user has a reasonable
need to use a motorised wheelchair.
In responding to concerns from the community, the ACT was the first
jurisdiction in Australia to provide an exemption to the above mass limit for
motorised wheelchairs used on a path. The exemption increased the allowable
mass of the unladen wheelchair to 150 kg.
The ACT Government advised that the ARRs treatment of the users of
motorised wheelchairs (that cannot travel at more than 10 km/h) is supported by
the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989. The Motor Vehicle Standards (Road
Vehicles) Determination 2017 under the MVSA, provides that a motorised
wheelchair is designed to be used by a single person, is self-propelled, is not
capable of exceeding 10 km/h on level ground, and if not propelled solely by
one or more electric motors, has an unladen mass of 40 kg or more.
It is the understanding of officers within the ACT Road Transport
Authority, that under the MVSA, mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs
that can travel at more than 10 km per hour on level ground are considered to
be non-standard motor vehicles. The ACT Government advised that because it is
an offence under the MVSA to import or supply to market such devices, an
offender would be liable to a penalty for each such offence.
The issue of human rights was raised by a large number of submitters who
suggested that any tightening of the regulations for mobility scooters and
motorised wheelchairs would discriminate against both older people and those
with a disability.
Ms Marg Bell expressed concern that any proposal to further regulate
motorised wheelchairs would "have the effect of condemning a community
already struggling to cope with the normal activities of everyday life".
It's seeking to limit the movement of already limited people
who in many cases need their wheelchairs simply to function, not to go down the
road in, but to get to the toilet and the washbasin. They need a wheelchair to
compensate for what their body cannot achieve on its own. I am not suggesting
that they need to go to the toilet at 10kph. I am trying to point out that
their wheelchair is a vital supplement for their legs.
The sentiments expressed by Ms Bell were echoed by a number of
submitters who argued that users of mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs
should not be treated differently, or discriminated against.
Mr Ray Jordan for example, argued that:
We have laws that limit the speed at which people are allowed
to drive their cars. Those speed limits vary depending on the circumstances.
Yet we do not limit the maximum speed of the cars themselves. We rely on
drivers obeying the rules which, generally, they do.
Should the riders of mobility scooters and power wheelchairs
be treated differently to car drivers? Should their devices be physically
limited to a slow walking pace as some have suggested? I say no, this would be
seen as discriminatory by many in the community.
Ms Erin Condrin submitted that able bodied people have the right to make
decisions about how fast they move in a variety of situations – including
playing soccer with their children, walking their dog, or when running late for
an appointment. Further, Ms Condrin argued:
As a walking person, you can decide when it's appropriate to
walk and when it's appropriate to jog or run. Your proposed legislation takes
away my right to choose. Not only is this belittling to suggest that all users
of mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs are incapable of using common
sense and deciding what speed we move at, it is unfair to impose restrictions
on the mobility of people with disabilities when those who are able bodied do
not face the same standards. Is this not discrimination?
There are a number of conventions that have been ratified by the
Australian Government, the principles and articles of which are reflected in
Australian legislation and in public policy and programs. These include Commonwealth,
state and territory anti-discrimination legislation, the National Disability
Strategy 2010–2020, and the NDIS.
A number of submitters, including the Office of the Public Advocate (Victoria)
(OPA Victoria), pointed to the central role that human rights should play in
any discussions around the use and regulation of mobility devices.
OPA Victoria pointed to the United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991)
and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(2006), and argued that these instruments are part of the framework within
which "policies affecting older people and people with disabilities should
OPA Victoria also argued that:
In an ageing society, it is vital that older persons with
mobility impairments are supported to participate actively in Australian
society, whether that is through involvement in education, employment,
volunteering or other activities with family and friends.
With this in mind, it was noted that the instruments being referred to
by OPA Victoria were not based on a medical model of disability or ageing
(which often seek to emphasise a specific medical diagnosis or focus on what
people are not able to do). Rather, these instruments are based on a human
rights model which encourages active participation and inclusion.
United Nations Principles for Older
On 16 December 1999, the United Nations Principles for Older Persons
were adopted by a resolution of the General Assembly. In adopting the
principles, the United Nations (UN) acknowledged that in all countries, individuals
are "reaching an advanced age in greater numbers and in better health than
ever before". Under the principles, the UN declared that in addition to
basic human rights in relation to food, water, shelter, clothing and health
care, older persons also have the right to:
maintain their independence;
participate in the community;
access social and legal services to enhance their autonomy,
protection and care;
access educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational
be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic
background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their
United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(CRPD) applies to people with disabilities of all ages. There are two articles contained
within the CRPD which are of particular relevance to the issues around
regulation of mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs.
Article 3 – Guiding principles
The guiding principles of the
respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom
to make one's own choices, and independence of persons;
full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as
part of human diversity and humanity;
equality of opportunity;
equality between men and women; and
respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and
respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their
Article 20 – Personal mobility
Article 20 of the
Convention, states parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal
mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities,
facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the
manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;
facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility
aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and
intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;
providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and
to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities; and
encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive
technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with
Disability Discrimination Act
Section 23 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits
discrimination against a person on the grounds of their disability. This
includes refusing to allow a person access to premises or use of facilities
(that the public is entitled or allowed to enter or use). The Act covers
circumstances in which discriminatory terms or conditions are imposed on a
person's access or use of premises or facilities. It also covers situations in
which a person imposes discriminatory requirements as to the manner of a
person's access to premises or use of facilities, on the basis of disability.
The term 'premises' is defined in the Act to include both a structure
and a place (whether it is enclosed or not). The Australian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) has determined that the term 'premises' can include public
footpaths; and states that barriers to using footpaths could potentially
constitute unlawful discrimination. Barriers could, for example, include:
the placement of street furniture, poles, bollards or equipment
in locations that cause a barrier to access;
poor maintenance that prevents the safe use of a footpath by
persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users – such as, overhanging
vegetation or uneven surfaces caused by pot-holes or tree roots; and
encroachment by occupants or users of adjacent premises –
including encroachments by nearby businesses, or building works that do not
provide users with an alternative, safe route.
It is noted, therefore, that any measures taken which limit the ability
of people using motorised wheelchairs to use public footpaths could potentially
constitute unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability.
Section 29 of the Act contains a limited exemption for cases in which avoiding
the discrimination would impose an 'unjustifiable hardship' on the
Disability (Access to Premises –
Buildings) Standards 2010
The Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 are made
under the Disability Discrimination Act and set out a number of legally binding
design standards for buildings. The AHRC has determined that public footpaths
are not subject to the Standards, but has recommended that government
authorities with responsibilities for footpaths adopt certain technical
specifications, which the AHRC considers to be good practice. These include
specifications for width and clearance heights, gradient, surface finish, kerb
heights and tactile indicators at crossings. The AHRC does, however, also
acknowledge that the requirements adopted at individual locations will also
need to take account of local conditions, including the needs of the community,
historical practice and any unique heritage or environmental issues.
Disability Standards for Accessible
Public Transport 2002
The committee was advised that there is currently no clear way for a
person intending to purchase a motorised mobility device to know whether it
will be suitable or safe to use on public infrastructure, including footpaths.
It was also noted that determining whether a device can be used to access
passenger transport can also be difficult. Problems arise when a mobility
device is found to be too heavy to use passenger ramps, too wide to access
doorways, or unable to access allocated spaces.
Given the risks this situation poses to users of mobility devices, other
commuters, passenger transport workers, and to infrastructure, the Disability
Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 were reviewed in 2013. Austroads
noted that one of the recommendations from that review was for the Commonwealth,
in collaboration with state and territory governments, to develop and implement
a national labelling scheme for motorised mobility devices. The Federal
Government noted the recommendation, and indicated its support for an Austroads
project to develop a labelling system to better inform customers about the
suitability of different mobility devices for use on public infrastructure,
such as footpaths, and passenger transport conveyances.
Licencing, registration and third-party insurance
The issue of licencing, registration and insurance for motorised
mobility devices was raised by a number of submitters, with many supportive of
a licensing, registration and insurance scheme.
Ms Stacey Christie, for example, suggested that perhaps a licencing system
would offer a good solution:
That way the thousands of people with permanent disabilities,
who use their motorised wheelchairs every day and are very safe, are not
penalised for the errors of a select few irresponsible individuals. People who
use their wheelchairs the majority of the time would easily pass a licence test
and people who are unsafe wouldn't be able to purchase a mobility scooter.
Mr Terry Flower informed the committee that an industrial accident saw
him purchase the first of many mobility devices in 1998. Mr Flower, a South
Australian, indicated that he currently owns several scooters (which he uses
for different purposes) and which are all covered for comprehensive insurance by
the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia (RAA SA). Mr Flower noted
that his mobility scooters are also covered for third party insurance by the
Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC).
Mr Flower pointed to the fact that in South Australia, the rules have
recently been changed to allow adults to ride their bicycles on the footpaths.
He observed that bicycles are frequently ridden at speeds in excess of 10 km/h.
Noting these changes, Mr Flower made the following suggestion in relation to a
An option that is available would be to make every mobility
scooter and pushbike have an identification number that is a registration
number. If this idea was adopted irresponsible users of mobility scooters and
pushbikes would be readily identifiable by the police.
It is noted that, given motorised mobility devices which cannot travel
faster than 10 km/h are classified as pedestrians, they are not subject to
driver licencing requirements in any state or territory.
New South Wales
The NSW vehicle registration system generally requires all motorised
vehicles (that meet national design and safety standards) be registered for use
on a road or road-related areas. There are certain vehicles, however, that are
specifically exempt from registration and do not require CTP insurance.
The nominal defendant provisions under the NSW motor accident scheme can
(subject to some conditions) provide insurance cover for personal injury claims
arising from accidents on roads or road-related areas, where a motorised
wheelchair that is not required to be registered is at fault.
In South Australia, mobility scooters do not require registration. The
MAIC provides users of mobility devices with third-party insurance cover at no
cost, in cases where an incident occurs on the road or on a footpath in which
the user of the mobility scooter or motorised wheelchair was at fault.
Potential purchasers are advised to contact an insurance company or broker to
check personal liability and insurance cover for mobility scooters.
Under Victorian legislation motorised mobility devices – including
mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs – are not defined as motor vehicles
and therefore cannot be registered.
Under Tasmanian regulations, mobility scooters or motorised wheelchairs
only need to be registered if they are used on public streets (including
footpaths) and can exceed a speed of 10 km/h. If mobility scooters or motorised
wheelchairs require registration (that is, if they are able to travel at more
than 10 km/h) they are registered as a light vehicle or a motorcycle with
conditions, depending on how they are constructed.
The Western Australian Department of Transport uses the term 'motorised
wheelchair' to include wheelchairs driven by petrol, diesel or electric
engines, as well as vehicles referred to as gophers. Under Western Australian
legislation, these vehicles must be designed so that they cannot exceed a speed
of 10 km/h.
Users of these vehicles are not required to hold a driver's licence and
are not required to pay compulsory Motor Injury Insurance (MII). Interestingly,
the Western Australian Department of Transport indicated that where a genuine
need is demonstrated, vehicles that are more suitable for higher speeds (for
example, quad bikes) can be conditionally licensed as 'motorised wheelchairs'.
In Queensland, a motorised wheelchair
used on a footpath or road area must be registered. To be registered, the motorised
have an electric motor;
be designed and built for use by a seated person with mobility
not be capable of travelling at more than 10 km/h;
have a maximum TARE (or unladen weight) of 150 kg; and
not be propelled by an internal combustion engine.
Provided the applicant complies with specific procedural requirements
(including supplying a medical certificate confirming their medical need to use
a wheelchair due to mobility impairment) there is no cost for registration in
Queensland. Users of registered motorised wheelchairs also receive compulsory
third-party insurance free of charge. This provides coverage in the event that
a user causes injury to another person while on a road-related area such as a
After a motorised wheelchair is registered, the user receives:
a number plate;
a registration certificate; and
an information sheet explaining Queensland Road Rules relating to
The Northern Territory does not operate a registration, licensing or compulsory
third-party insurance system for motorised mobility devices.
The nominal defendant provisions in the Northern Territory's motor
accident scheme can (subject to some conditions) provide insurance cover for
personal injury claims arising from accidents on roads or road-related areas,
where a motorised wheelchair that is not required to be registered is at fault.
Australian Capital Territory
The nominal defendant provisions in the ACT's motor accident scheme can
(subject to some conditions) provide insurance cover for personal injury claims
arising from accidents on roads or road-related areas, where a motorised
wheelchair that is not required to be registered is at fault.
Licencing, registration and
The Brisbane City Council advised that through its Brisbane Access
and Inclusion Plan 2012–2017, it has been working to improve pathways and
ramps, as well as accessibility for mobility scooters and wheelchairs on
Brisbane's bus network.
It was noted that the current Queensland system – which includes
registration and free third-party insurance for motorised mobility devices – is
effective. The Brisbane City Council also argued that the Queensland system,
which ensures that mobility scooters are only registered to people who require
them, is something that other states and territories could consider
The Brisbane City Council submitted that there are currently a number of
gaps in regulatory and licencing processes for mobility scooters which could be
remedied for the benefit of both footpath and public transport users. The
Council pointed to the lack of consistency between states in relation to standards,
licencing, education and accessible public transport and made the following
recommendations to rectify this situation:
an Australian standard should be put in place for design and
manufacture of mobility scooters with speed limiters for footpath use;
the Austroads standard for footpaths should be amended to include
reference to mobility scooters;
given the increasing number of mobility scooters, consideration
should be given to the need to revise the standard pathway width (which is
currently 1.2 metres);
the states and territories consider implementing a basic
licencing scheme to ensure that users have the ability to use a mobility
scooter safely; and
basic training for mobility scooter users should be provided by
mobility scooter retailers or certified companies – with eligible users able to
access funding through the NDIS.
Brisbane City Council noted that the gaps "include consistency of
standards between states, licencing and education".
As one of the largest public transport operators in Australia, it emphasised
the point that particular attention needs to be paid to mobility scooter access
onto public transport.
In terms of licencing, the OPA Victoria indicated that it does not
consider the licensing of all motorised mobility devices a workable solution, on
the basis that:
It would create an unworkable, costly system that would
further stigmatise and discriminate against people with mobility disabilities.
It would only create additional barriers to people with disabilities, of
whatever age, participating and contributing to society. Furthermore, it would
do little to reduce accidents.
The NSW Government argued that, without compelling evidence to suggest
that it would improve road safety, implementing a registration scheme for
mobility devices would be contrary to the state's Better Regulation policy.
It was also argued that requiring mobility devices to be registered could
potentially create a significant financial and regulatory burden, "the
costs of which would either have to be met by the users themselves or absorbed
Mr Charles Nicholson, a submitter from NSW, noted that in that state,
provisional registration is already in use for vehicles described as
Non-complying vehicles include tractors, equipment used by councils to carry out
roadside mowing, as well as those used for roadworks, beach cleaning and
shopping trolley collection.
Mr Nicholson suggested that it would be possible for mobility scooters to be
included in this category, be required to have provisional registration and be required
to be fitted with a small, readily identifiable, registration number plate. Mr Nicholson
also argued that all motorised mobility scooters should be covered by
compulsory third-party insurance and that this could be achieved by users
paying a nominal amount, for example, ten per cent of the cost of car CTP.
The committee was advised that, in the past, South Australia did have a
low-cost registration scheme for motorised wheelchairs, which provided
insurance, but did not require a number plate to be issued. It was also noted that currently in South Australia,
the MAIC does provide free third-party insurance cover for mobility scooters
(in cases of accidental injury).
It is also noted that third-party insurance arrangements provided by
state and territory governments appear to be limited to the use of motorised
wheelchairs on a road, or a road-related area, such as a footpath. It would
seem that they do not cover injuries caused on private premises, such as in a
shopping centre or a local club (which would need to be covered by a separate
public liability insurance policy).
Ms Helen Mikolaj advised that, as a mobility scooter user in South
Australia, she has been able to obtain comprehensive insurance for her current scooter
through the RAA SA. In terms of
appropriate regulation, Ms Mikolaj also argued in favour of:
a system of registration for those mobility scooters which have
third-party insurance cover (for which a nominal fee is charged);
the introduction of a number plate or identity plate for mobility
scooters and bicycles (to identify the user);
a Certificate of Competency for users of mobility scooters (for
which basic training is required);
retailers of mobility scooters to offer appropriate advice to
purchasers (before they buy); and
medical assessments of a person's ability to use and control a
mobility scooter (including eyesight checks).
Similar views were expressed by Dr Gary Musselwhite, a mobility scooter
user who has lived in NSW, Queensland and now Victoria. In addition to
suggesting that the conditional registration of all mobility scooters and power
chairs should be mandatory across all states (in line with the Queensland
system), Dr Musselwhite suggested that:
users of a mobility device should be required to undergo an
assessment conducted by an occupational therapist (to ensure that the device is
required to assist with mobility and that the user is capable of operating the
mobility device in a safe manner);
based on an occupational therapist's assessment, a person with a
significant impairment may require their mobility device to be speed limited as
a condition of registration; and
mobility scooters should have an attached registration plate
(which acts as a means of identifying the user in the event of an incident or
Further, Dr Musselwhite recommended that all states adopt
"consistent policy and legislation in respect to the registration of
motorised mobility scooters and power chairs", and that consideration be
given to the introduction of regular assessments for users of mobility devices.
The assessments, which would be conducted by an occupational therapist (and
funded using an aged care package, Medicare or NDIS) would go some way to
ensuring that individuals were safe to continue using a mobility device.
Assessment by a medical
A number of submitters raised the issue of medical assessments for users
of mobility devices. Many argued that while they were not in favour of making
it unduly difficult for users of mobility devices to get around, they were of
the view that users of should be required to be assessed by a medical
professional prior to purchasing (or being prescribed) a mobility device.
A number of stakeholders also argued that assessments of an individual's
ability to control a mobility device should be checked on a regular basis –
with many people suggesting assessments be undertaken annually.
Ms Anita Volkert, National Manager, Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA)
told the committee that the organisation supported the idea of a standardised
assessment tool for mobility scooter and motorised wheelchair use. OTA also
agreed that an occupational therapy assessment should be a requirement for
people with identified health issues, which result in functional limitations. OTA
warned however, that the further regulation of motorised mobility devices may
disadvantage some users – particularly if increased assessment, licensing and
insurance costs create delays in obtaining a mobility device. Ms Volkert explained
that OTA encourages:
...careful consideration of the impact this may have on the
ability of people with chronic health conditions and disabilities to
effectively participate in society, which we know increases people's health and
Professor Carolyn Unsworth representing CQUniversity Australia, told the
committee that, in terms of assessment and education for mobility device users,
she has recently been involved in the development of the Powered Mobility
Device Assessment and Training Tool – PoMoDATT. The training tool, which has been
researched over a period of five years, has recently been published and:
...it's widely used by occupational therapists to assist them
to make sure that people who are using scooters and wheelchairs are safe to do
so. In addition, if they're not safe, then there's a training mechanism
incorporated so that we can work with people to get people safe. I believe that
this is a very important tool that we can use. It's only one aspect of the
entire problem, but it does contribute to helping make people safe.
OPA Victoria also raised the issue of assessments for users of mobility
devices. OPA Victoria expressed the view that in some situations it may be
appropriate for an individual to undergo testing to determine if using a
mobility scooter or a motorised wheelchair is appropriate for them (or remains
appropriate for them). It was submitted, however, that there are existing
systems of assessment which can be used in these situations.
Education and training
A number of stakeholders argued that in Australia, children are educated
about road safety in an attempt to keep them safe when they are walking or
riding bicycles. Australians also consider education and training to be an
important step in learning to drive and being granted a licence to drive a
vehicle. It was submitted that more should be done to educate people in the use
of motorised mobility devices and operating them in a manner that is safe for
users and others, while at the same time educating the broader community about
safety around motorised mobility devices.
Mr Nigel Caswell, President, People with Multiple Sclerosis Victoria,
suggested that there is a need for a minimum level of training and information
to be provided to all people who purchase (or are prescribed) a mobility
scooter or motorised wheelchair. Mr Caswell argued that:
This training and information should be provided before the
purchase is completed and should cover safe use, courtesy and safety for other
people and basic maintenance (if the user is not capable of the maintenance
this information should be provided to the user's carer or similar). In my view
the provision of this training and information should be an obligation of the
retailer supplying the machine, and desirably retailers should offer regular
half day courses for persons proposing to purchase a machine.
The issue of shared roads, paths and other spaces was raised by a number
of submitters. A number of stakeholders also pointed to the fact that there are
frequently a range of vehicles which share roads, paths and other spaces, particularly
A number of submitters also made it clear that safety is not the sole
responsibility of those who use motorised mobility devices. Stakeholders argued
that pedestrians not watching where they are going, people texting or talking
on phones, bicycles and skateboards travelling too fast, and vehicles blocking
footpaths can also pose a danger.
For example, whilst acknowledging that while some people can be
"uncaring and reckless" on a scooter, Mr Russell Anderson argued that
the general public also need to be more aware of their surroundings:
The general public need to be also made aware of the dangers
they pose to themselves. I have had many occasions where people just stop dead
in front of you for no reason and it is not that easy to stop dead [on a
scooter]. Or they just walk out straight in front of you or they block your
path with shopping trolleys.
Ms Robyn Hall expressed similar frustrations and told the committee:
Scooters are not the only things used on pavements and it's
unfair to target just those who use them. I am sick to death of going down the
shopping strip in Richmond, Melbourne and adults are riding their pushbikes
(illegal by the way) on the footpath. I have seen people hit and nearly hit by
these irresponsible idiots and yet when I complained to our local council I was
told it's nothing to do with them.
Mr Peter Fraser also raised the problem of pedestrians not being aware
of their surroundings:
In my local shopping centre....one has to be very careful as so
many people are texting or talking on their mobiles instead of looking where
they are going. This is a daily problem that I encounter.
OPA Victoria acknowledged the increased use of motorised mobility
devices, and noted that in addition to those people who have their own mobility
scooter or motorised wheelchair, motorised scooters are often available for
temporary hire at shopping centres, educational facilities and recreational
facilities. It was argued, therefore, that at any one time across Australia,
there "will be hundreds or thousands of motorised mobility devices in
OPA Victoria also acknowledged that as a result of the sheer numbers of
devices, accidents are going to happen. It argued however, that:
...it is wrong to blame the driver of these devices solely for
these accidents. Accidents often happen because of the physical environment in
which the users of motorised devices find themselves. For example, poorly
maintained footpaths, steep and uneven terrain, kerb ramps (or kerb cuts),
inadequate street lighting and the failure of other people to look where they
OPA Victoria suggested that rather than additional regulation, community
education is a better solution to the problem of incidents and accidents
involving motorised mobility scooters, motorised wheelchairs, bicycles and
skateboards. OPA Victoria indicated its support for community education
designed to remind people to be more aware of what is going on in the
environment around them, and to be more mindful of others, particularly when they
are using headphones and mobile phones.
Community education, it was argued, should focus on the rights and
responsibilities of users of motorised mobility devices, members of the general
public as well as the agencies responsible for community infrastructure,
without condemning or excluding those people who need mobility devices.
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