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How to use a mobility scooter

Driving a mobility scooter

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Driving a mobility scooter

Learn about the basics of driving a mobility scooter, plus whether you'll need tax or insurance before you ride.

As well as learning how to handle the controls on your particular model, you'll need to be aware of the rules of the road (and pavement) and ensure you're safe, for instance by using lights at night or on very overcast days.

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Learning how to use your mobility scooter

Most mobility scooters operate with a key ignition (ie they won't work without a key inserted), accelerating like a car and increasing in speed incrementally. 

Speed is controlled by a lever that sits on the handlebars - the ‘wig-wag’. The wig-wag is often operated with a thumb action, though some scooters require use of both a finger and a thumb, or just fingers.

Shaped controls for fingers are the easiest to use for the majority of people. Thumb controls can be a problem if you have arthritis.

The wig-wag allows you to accelerate and reverse, but it's a good idea to practise both before you head out on your scooter. 

The tiller of a mobility scooter is the steering column, directed by the handlebars. It’s important to keep both hands on the handlebars unless you’re indicating, changing speed or using the horn.

Stopping mechanisms (or 'brakes') are electromagnetic – that is, they are permanently on until you push the wig-wag to drive the scooter. As soon as you let go of the wig-wag, the brakes are applied and the scooter comes to a stop.

Using your mobility scooter: three key things to think about

1Recharge the batteries regularly...

...to avoid running out of power during a trip out.

2Keep a mobile phone with you...

...in case of a breakdown while out and about. 

3Get some training...

...especially if you buy a Class 3 scooter for use on the road. Ask your disability living or mobility centre about local courses.

Using a mobility scooter on pavements and in shops

When travelling on pavements, keep in mind that pedestrians always have right of way, and watch out for children darting in front of your scooter.

Mobility scooters must not travel at more than 4mph on the pavement, in supermarkets or in shopping centres.

In crowded areas you will probably need to drive more slowly than 4mph, to give people a chance to move out of the way as you approach and to ensure that you maintain control of the scooter when weaving around people. Reduce your speed when turning corners to avoid any danger of tipping.

Using a mobility scooter on the road

Only Class 3 mobility scooters – large scooters with a maximum speed limit of 8mph – can be driven on the road.

It’s wise to avoid busy roads where possible, and remember that all the normal rules of the road apply: drive on the left, follow the Highway Code, and stop at red lights and zebra crossings.

When turning right, it's a good idea to use pedestrian crossings (where available) rather than manoeuvring your scooter into the middle of the road to turn. As with driving on pavements, reduce your speed when turning corners.

Cars behind you will be travelling much faster than they might appear to be, and certainly much faster than you.

A mobility scooter should not be driven in bus lanes, cycle lanes, on motorways or on dual carriageways that have a speed limit of 50mph or above. 

It's best to avoid all dual carriageways but, if you can’t avoid, you're legally required to use an amber flashing light for visibility.

Kerb climbing on a scooter

Kerbs can present problems for some mobility scooters – three-wheeled models and boot scooters in particular - as they can cause them to tip over. 

If you have a three-wheeled scooter, it’s best to approach kerbs straight on so you're directly facing them, rather than from an angle. If you're able to plan a route that only encompasses dropped/sloped kerbs, all the better.

Mobility scooter tax, registration and insurance

You don't have to pay vehicle tax for any mobility scooter, but you do need to register Class 3 road scooters (sometimes called 'invalid carriages') with the DVLA and display a ‘nil value’ tax disc. Get form V55/4 for new vehicles or V55/5 for used vehicles from the DVLA ordering service on its website. 

You don't need insurance for a mobility scooter, although it's recommended.

Mobility scooter breakdown rescue cover is provided by a number of companies, including Chartwell and ETA, for around £35 to £90 a year.

Taking a mobility scooter on public transport

Some bus companies run a scooter permit scheme, which allows you to take small Class 2 scooters on board. Credit-card-sized permits are given out once your local bus company has assessed your scooter to ensure it fits its health and safety, and size requirements. 

Most (though not all) train companies allow you to bring small scooters on board if you have a permit. However, policies vary so it's best to check prior to travelling. Some ban scooters completely, or only allow them to be carried as luggage when dismantled. 

Rica, the disability charity, has information on your legal rights to accessible transport. Its website also has a list of all bus companies that run a permit scheme and carriage rules for all train operators.

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