Irish government plans lenient e-scooter insurance rules
The government in Ireland plans to relax rules around e-scooters – including making them exempt from needing to be insured – as part of a set of measures designed to encourage their use.
There will be no lower age limit to use them, and the Irish government will not set mandatory tax, licensing or insurance requirements on any e-bike or e-scooter that is capable of speeds up to 25kmph. It means that drivers and pedestrians won’t be able to claim against a scooter rider’s insurance policy if they cause damage or injury.
The government wants to encourage more people to use e-bikes and e-scooters as a means of reducing pollution, incentivising healthier commuting behaviours and reducing traffic on Ireland’s roads – particularly in congested urban centres like Dublin and Galway. The new legislation was proposed earlier this year but is not likely to become effective until 2023.
An increasingly common sight on city streets, e-scooters are often touted as the future of urban mobility – and as such, they pose both a lucrative opportunity and an extra challenge for insurers to mitigate against. They are the subject of multiple trials worldwide and they often sit within a legal grey area.
E-scooter collisions ‘more likely’ than bikes – UK
In the UK, the government has this week released some preliminary findings about the use of e-scooters, which are currently being used in multiple cities as part of public trials. The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) says the trials have led to “an increased use of rental e-scooters for purposeful journeys, such as commuting” and “a progressive increase in mode shift away from private vehicles as trials matured”.
But it also acknowledges that data suggests the frequency of e-scooter collisions is higher than for bicycles, with a higher likelihood of frequency for inexperienced riders. Despite the increased likelihood of collision, the nature of injuries sustained from e-scooter collisions was “broadly similar” to injuries sustained by cyclists, the DfT says. More than 4,000 cyclists a year are seriously injured on Britain’s roads, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
As a result of the public trials, the UK government has already mandated unique ID numbers for all rental e-scooters and published guidance urging operators to promote the use of helmets. But it says it has not made a final decision regarding public policy around e-scooters and similar light electric vehicles.
Status of e-scooters varies massively by country
Ireland’s stance will be seen as a relatively soft approach that prioritises the active lifestyle and decarbonisation benefits of e-scooters. But the new statistics out of the UK will simultaneously raise questions among insurers as to the implications on their business and could potentially leave car owners out of pocket if their vehicle is damaged by a scooter rider.
The latest developments fit into a broader conversation across the continent about the legal and tax status of these kinds of vehicles. Some European countries require insurance for e-scooter riders – including France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands – but Ireland’s light touch is more on par with Belgium, where e-scooter rules are also lenient. Belgium, too, does not enforce a minimum age limit for the use of e-scooters in public.
A spokesperson for Ireland’s Transport Department was previously quoted as saying: “Micro mobility options such as e-scooters are an important part of Ireland’s sustainable transport mix and a key alternative to more carbon-intensive travel by private car. The department considered the available information on the development of e-scooter controls in other countries, but it is noted that there is no uniform EU position on usage and technical specifications at this point.”