Conclusions and Recommendations
Motorised mobility devices – including mobility scooters and motorised
wheelchairs – have become increasingly important to a growing number of older
Australians. The issues around their use and their safety are, however, equally
important to younger Australians – particularly those who live with a
The importance of motorised mobility devices for Australians living with
Many Australians will have a disability at some stage of their lives.
For some people the disability will be temporary, but others may be affected
for a lifetime. According to statistics cited by the AHRC, approximately 6.8
million Australians aged 18 years and over report having a disability, or a
long-term health condition. Most people with disabilities – 87 per cent – are
restricted in their ability to carry out at least one everyday activity, such
as self-care, mobility or communication.
The AHRC also notes that people with disabilities are more likely to
experience poverty, live in poor quality or insecure housing and have low
levels of education. They are often socially isolated and have fewer
opportunities to take part in community life. Progress has been made towards fulfilling
the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 requirement that all
public transport services, infrastructure and conveyances fully comply with the
relevant standards by 2032.
However, the fact remains that 1.2 million Australians with disabilities report
having difficulties accessing and using public transport.
It should be noted that according to recent figures from the AHRC,
discrimination on the grounds of disability is the most frequent issue raised
by people who enquire about their human rights or who lodge complaints about
breaches of those rights. In 2016–17, the AHRC received 14 911 complaint-related
enquiries and 1939 complaints. Of these, disability discrimination accounted
for 20 per cent of total enquiries and 39 per cent of total complaints.
Older Australians and community participation
Older Australians represent a growing proportion of the total population.
In 2016, 3.7 million Australians were aged 65 and over, comprising 15 per cent
of the total population. The proportion of older Australians is expected to
continue to grow steadily over the coming decades. In part, the growth in the
proportion of older Australians is due to increasing life expectancy. In 2011–13,
a 65 year old man could expect to live another 19 years, and a 65 year old woman
another 22 years, which is 7 years longer (for both sexes) than in the mid-1960s.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW),
Australians now have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is
noted that the proportion of older Australians participating in the labour
force doubled between 2000 and 2015 – from 6 to 13 per cent. While a
significant proportion of older Australians reported their health as good, very
good, or excellent, approximately 50 per cent of older people indicated they
have some degree of disability.
Concerns raised about safety
A number of submitters to the inquiry pointed to the increasing use of motorised
mobility devices – particularly mobility scooters – and raised specific concerns
about their safety. It was noted that while in theory, users of these devices
are categorised as pedestrians, many mobility devices are heavy and some are also
capable of reaching speeds of 10 km/h or more.
The committee received a number of detailed accounts of accidents in
which submitters (or their relatives) had sustained a variety of injuries:
ranging from bruising, grazes, skin tears and broken ankles to head injuries, broken
legs and broken hips.
In addition to describing their first-hand experience of the types of
injuries that can be caused by these devices, it was argued that the ongoing
consequences of accidents involving motorised mobility devices can also be very
serious. In addition to the impact on a person's physical and mental
well-being, ongoing medical treatment can be painful, expensive and time
consuming. Submitters also described circumstances where severe injury has made
it impossible for a person to work and has caused considerable financial
Conversely, the committee heard of accidents involving injury to motorised
mobility device users, often caused through no fault of their own. In a
significant number of cases it is the user of the device who is injured, a
reality that was borne out in evidence provided by stakeholders and included in
The balance between independence and safety
The committee recognises that motorised mobility devices – including
mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs – can have a positive impact on
people's lives. Mobility devices provide independence and movement to a large
number of people who may otherwise have difficulty getting around their
communities or undertaking any number of simple tasks that are frequently taken
for granted by most people.
The committee notes that COTA Australia's views on the importance of mobility
reflect those of a large number of submitters:
The capacity to visit friends and family, shop, attend
appointments and be part of community activities are crucial to quality of life
and to enable older people to remain independent and in their own homes for as
long as possible. Mobility scooters are also particularly important to older
people in areas with limited public transport.
As noted previously, under current federal, state and territory
legislation and in practice, mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs are
generally categorised as a medical device. Essentially, this means that the
transit rules are largely the same as those which apply to pedestrians. At the
same time, however, the road rules (and the interpretation of the road rules)
can differ across the states and territories.
There is also some variation in the rules and regulations which govern
the safe use of motorised mobility devices, including definitions of the rights
and responsibilities of mobility device users. This lack of clarity and
consistency adds to a confusing – and potentially dangerous – environment for
scooter and wheelchair users, as well as other pedestrians and road users.
The committee is of the view that the availability of information
regarding the safe use of mobility devices is vitally important. In particular,
it is critical that users receive appropriate and timely education and tailored
training regarding the safe use of their own motorised mobility device.
The committee agrees with the views expressed by those stakeholders who
argued that prior to a person purchasing (or being provided with) a motorised mobility
device, they should be assessed by a qualified medical professional, such as an
occupational therapist. The medical professional would be required to assess
the person's fine and gross motor skills, balance and endurance, vision and
perception, their planning skills and their memory as well as their
concentration and reaction times. This assessment process would ensure that the
most appropriate device is provided and potentially tailored to need. It would
also provide the ideal opportunity for training in safe usage and standards.
Finally, the assessment should include a functional trial to enable the user to
learn the safest way to negotiate ramps, paths, shopping centres and to access
The committee emphasises, however, that any additional education and
training should be well coordinated, easily accessed and not impose any
additional financial burden on users.
It is obvious that the provision of information, education and training
is currently very ad hoc. Evidence suggests that various federal, state and
territory departments, local government organisations, local councils and some
aged care facilities provide good quality training material and information to
users of mobility devices. Some people prescribed a mobility device by a
government department or agency reported that they were provided with adequate information
and training. However, evidence to the committee suggested that without a national
framework in place, there is currently no mechanism to ensure that education
and training are both accessible and consistently provided.
The committee has observed that there this a high level of goodwill across
federal, state and territory road transport agencies, aged care and disability
support groups, retailers and suppliers, community groups and individuals to
ensure safety. On the whole, submitters were also supportive of the need for
the provision of information – and training – to be mandatory.
The committee recognises that users need to be provided with clear,
consistent information about the safe use of their motorised mobility device –
including mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs.
The committee is strongly of the view however, that safety is not solely
the responsibility of those who use motorised mobility devices. The committee acknowledges
the evidence provided by a large number of submitters which indicated that
there is also a need to educate the general public about sharing public spaces
safely. The problems associated with the inappropriate use of modern technology
– including mobile phones, earphones and headphones – is obviously not limited
to road users.
A common thread
It is clear that people have very strong views about motorised mobility
devices: their increasing use, and their safety. Some submitters expressed
strong views about the dangers posed by motorised mobility devices and raised
specific concerns about their lack of regulation.
A large number of submitters also expressed strong views about the positive
impact mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs can have on people's lives. A
number of individuals and representative groups made it very clear that they
were opposed to any type of rules or regulations which could deter older or disabled
Australians from accessing their communities. Submitters referred to the
'privilege' and the 'freedom' of independence and described it as a vital
ingredient to health and wellbeing. Others noted that such independence is a
fundamental human right.
The inquiry did, however, identify a number of areas of common ground. The
majority of submitters, for example, stressed the importance of having an
appropriate regulatory framework, which supports individual independence, but
at the same time encourages safety on roads, footpaths, in shopping centres, on
public transport and around recreational facilities.
The committee notes that the speed of mobility devices was a key concern
for many. While a number of submitters pointed to the dangers of increasing the
permitted speed, a large number raised strong objections to the introduction of
any regulations which would decrease the permitted maximum speed from 10 km/h.
Interestingly, the committee notes that there is a general consensus
around the continuation of a 5 km/h minimum speed and a 10 km/h maximum speed.
The committee suggests that this evidence should be taken into consideration by
Austroads as part of its future deliberations.
The committee also notes the evidence provided to the inquiry which
suggests that the current limits set for mobility devices – particularly
motorised wheelchairs – is not practical. Modern motorised wheelchairs are
frequently fitted with footrests, headrests and safety devices which take their
weight beyond 110 kgs. The committee has concerns about evidence that under the
current regulations, a large number of motorised wheelchairs could be deemed
illegal because of the weight restriction.
The weight of mobility devices was raised throughout the inquiry, but
was not identified as a key safety concern by submitters. The committee does
have concerns about the lack of clarity in regard to weight limits and is of
the strong view that further research is required to determine whether in fact
weight limits have any major impact on safety, and whether it is necessary to
set limits in future regulations.
The inquiry has determined that there is considerable agreement around
the need to develop less complex, nationally consistent rules and regulations relating
to the use of motorised mobility devices. Based on evidence provided to the
committee during its inquiry, the committee suggests that there is a high level
of agreement amongst stakeholders in relation to:
the need for individuals to be assessed by a medical professional
(such as an occupational therapist) prior to purchasing a motorised mobility
the need for individuals to purchase a motorised mobility device
that is suitable for both their needs and their (physical and mental) abilities;
the need for users of motorised mobility devices to have access
to appropriate training;
the need for consistency in relation to the speeds at which motorised
mobility devices are permitted to travel (including a maximum speed of 10
the need for further consideration to be given to implementing a
simple, low-cost system which covers the licensing, registration and insurance
of motorised mobility devices – including mobility scooters and motorised
the need for individuals to have met both medical and training
requirements prior to being permitted to purchase, register and insure their motorised
As noted earlier in this report, information about motorised mobility
devices, including their use and their safety is difficult to find. There is
little basic information available about the numbers of mobility devices in use
across the country or the way the devices are being used inside and outside the
home. There is even less information available about their safety and their
compatibility with the urban environment. This lack of data has contributed to
a reliance on anecdotal information, and the committee recognises the need for comprehensive
The committee acknowledges the excellent work that has been done, and
the efforts that have been made by organisations such as the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Monash University Department of
Forensic Medicine (DFM), the University of the Sunshine Coast Adolescent Risk
Research Unit (ARRU) and CQUniversity Australia's School of Medical, Health and
The research conducted by these organisations was cited by a number of
submitters and has provided valuable historic information and some much-needed
context to the issues raised during the inquiry.
The committee agrees with the researchers who gave evidence on behalf of
these organisations that there is a lack of up-to-date data in relation to the
use of motorised mobility devices. The committee is of the view that the
current lack of up-to-date data makes it very difficult – if not
impossible – for authorities to determine exactly what the specific problems
are that they need to mitigate against.
The committee therefore supports the call for additional research. Such
research should include as a minimum:
a comprehensive epidemiological study in relation to motorised mobility
device deaths and serious injuries (to include the use of some new codes that
have recently entered some data systems) to specify mobility device injuries;
an in-depth study of fatal and serious head injuries to scooter
users to determine the potential for protection by helmets, such as bicycle
a study to determine whether a systems approach should be applied
to motorised mobility device safety – which includes the machine, the rider and
the development and implementation of user assessment programs
research into whether the use of alcohol and/or drugs is a
contributing factor in the number of deaths and injuries (attributed to
accidents involving motorised mobility devices); and
the ongoing collection of national mobility device data, which
includes numbers of motorised mobility devices and users, the age and sex of
users (to inform monitoring and research and to provide denominator data so
researchers can examine the rates of injuries and identify and trends or
Clearly, developing a consistent national approach to the regulation of motorised
mobility devices – including mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs – is
central to their safe use. Achieving this consistency will require
standardisation of, and a consistent national approach to, regulation and the
enforcement of that regulation.
The committee acknowledges the work undertaken by organisations such as
the ACCC and Austroads over the past decade, and notes that Austroads is
currently involved in various projects as they work toward developing a
nationally consistent approach to the use of motorised mobility devices –
including mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs.
The committee notes that a number of the safety concerns in relation to
these devices – particularly those which relate to their speed, could be
resolved by enforcement of appropriate regulatory requirements. This includes
those requirements which are the responsibility of the Department of
Infrastructure, the ACCC, state and territory transport and traffic agencies and
state and territory fair trading agencies.
It is clear that only mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs that
meet federal and state safety requirements should be imported and supplied to
the Australian market.
The committee is of the view that mobility scooters and motorised
wheelchairs are of significant benefit to a large number of people across the
community including older people and people with a disability. Motorised mobility
devices provide valuable support and assist people to remain independent and
engaged in their local community. Any future regulation of mobility scooters
and motorised wheelchairs needs to be evidence-based and must recognise the
importance of safety – of users and others – but not add any additional
barriers or make access and inclusion any more difficult for a frequently
marginalised section of our community.
The committee notes that over the past decade, Austroads has initiated
vital road and transport research which now underpins its current policy
development role in relation to motorised mobility devices. The projects
undertaken by Austroads, and the links it has established with stakeholders
over recent years, provide an appropriate platform as it works toward the development
of a nationally agreed framework for the safe use of motorised mobility
devices. As noted previously, introducing improved construction requirements
for motorised mobility devices and addressing the existing inadequacies in the
ARRs (as they relate to motorised mobility devices) are key objectives of
current Austroads projects.
As the peak organisation for Australasian road transport and traffic
agencies, Austroads currently has the expertise required to develop a new
framework which supports the safe interaction of motorised mobility devices
with pedestrians and other road users – both on roads and road-related areas.
The committee recognises that the nationally consistent regulatory
framework under current development must be evidence-based. The committee also
recognises the importance of the collaborative work that Austroads is engaged
in, as part of its efforts to establish the framework.
To this end, the committee recommends that Austroads is appropriately
funded to ensure that comprehensive research and consultation activities are
carried out. Furthermore, ongoing funding should be provided if necessary, to
ensure that Austroads can conduct, or commission, the collection of national
motorised mobility device data on a continual basis as identified in this
The committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure that Austroads
has adequate funding to undertake research and consultation activities to
inform the establishment of a nationally consistent regulatory framework for
motorised mobility devices.
The committee also recommends that Austroads take this report, and the
evidence provided to the inquiry, into account for the purposes of its
deliberations. In particular, the committee draws the attention of Austroads to
a number of issues for consideration and resolution. These include matters such
as the education of users as well as issues with licencing and registration
arrangements as well as third party insurance.
The committee recommends that Austroads take into account this report,
and the evidence provided to the inquiry, for the purposes of establishing a
nationally consistent regulatory framework for motorised mobility devices. As
part of its deliberations, Austroads should consider simple and low-cost
licencing and registration arrangements and third party insurance.
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