It is a first for the British courts – drink driving in charge of an electric scooter.

Kyah Jordan, 20, was almost three times over the limit when she went through a red light and almost crashed into an unmarked police car.

She had been drinking double shots of rum before riding the e-scooter through Newport on the Isle of Wight in December.

Presiding magistrates in the court case stated the e-scooter was classed as a “motor vehicle, the same as a moped, the same as a bus”. Jordan was subsequently banned from driving for two years and given a community order.

Christmas Spirit

After drinking with friends, the group decided to pick up a publicly available e-scooter from a nearby supermarket. Jordan admitted she had never ridden an e-scooter before. She subsequently failed to stop at a red light, then “narrowly” missed an unmarked police car.

After chasing the e-scooter on foot, police stopped Jordan and breathalysed her. She was nearly three times the legal alcohol limit.

Henry Farley, defending, said Jordan could not have posed a danger to anyone because she was travelling slowly on the scooter, which was limited to 12.5mph.

He said she “didn’t recall” a near-miss but said she admitted she had been “naive” to use the vehicle.

The Hangover

The Beryl e-scooter scheme was introduced on the island in December at the start of a 12-month trial. It is part of a Government pilot for e-scooter rental across cities in the UK that began in July 2020. The trials are designed to assess the benefits of e-scooters. In particular, they are looking at their impact on public space, motor traffic, the environment and safety.

The incident highlights an ongoing issue in the UK and further afield – apart from the rental schemes, privately owned e-scooter are illegal to ride in public, but the public aren’t obeying.

Present, But Not So Correct

The popularity of e-scooters is increasing, but the public appear to be ignorant of the law. This means they run the risk of a £300 fine, points on their driving licence and having the device seized.

In London, the Met has already seized more than 600 private e-scooters since November, according BBC reports.

Meanwhile, Devon and Cornwall Police warned in December that it would seize any private e-scooter being used in a public place and report the rider for any offences.

E-scooters have become the latest ‘must have’ tech. The pandemic and the wish to avoid public transport has made e-scooter an attractive, economic and eco-friendly alternative to the bus or the car.

In November, Halfords reported a 71% rise in sales during the second lockdown. Then came Christmas where it became a popular choice of present.

Confusingly Clear

Senior Met officer, Ch Supt Simon Ovens, says that anyone given an e-scooter as a Christmas gift should return it. It’s a “crazy” situation, e-scooters are a danger to riders and others and “they’re simply not built for our roads”.

It’s a view shared by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS). Executive director, David Davies, states: “Using privately-owned e-scooters on UK roads is illegal and there are legitimate safety concerns, both for riders and pedestrians.

“Many retailers are happy to sell e-scooters, knowing full-well that they will be used illegally. Others, such as John Lewis, have taken a more responsible approach and stopped.

“Meanwhile the Government is focused on the trials [of rental e-scooters] and ignoring the wider problem. With a rental scheme likely to begin soon in London, these issues will grow.”

Europe and Beyond

E-scooter use is not just an issue that the UK government is struggling to grapple with. The regulatory confusion in the face of the machine’s public popularity stretches across Europe and touches many legislatures around the globe. After all they are relatively cheap, space saving, efficient commuter transport and a fun form of transport.

Unfortunately, they have overtaken legal controls and safety regulations, raising the prospect of being a serious danger to the public.

Confusion reigns, principally amongst the public, but also within law enforcement, commerce and local authorities. While we have government sanctioned rental schemes, a huge choice of models on sale from a large number of retailers for private ownership, e-scooters remain illegal to use in public.

Legally though, one point has been cleared up: if you do get your hands (and feet) on an officially sanctioned electric scooter, then you are bound by the same laws that govern the use of any other motor vehicle.