E-scooters, hoverboards and e-skate boards are becoming a common sight on the streets of Jersey. On the face of it, they offer a fun and alternative way of beating the rush hour traffic, but equally, they present a serious risk of injury. A report published by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety in the UK found that 900 people were involved in e-scooter accidents in 2021, of which nearly 40% were seriously injured and 12 people died.
Those who use them should also be aware of the potential criminal penalties they may face. The rider of an e-scooter recently came before the Magistrate’s Court facing criminal charges relating to the use of his e-scooter following an accident which caused serious injury to a member of the public. The individual was sentenced to a period of community service (a direct alternative to a prison sentence) and lost his driving licence for a period of 18 months.
It seems that many Islanders are unaware of the legality of owning and using e-scooters in public spaces in Jersey. In this article, we seek to provide a summary of the legal framework (or rather lack of it!) which currently exists in Jersey.
What are e-scooters?
e-Scooters are scooters which are propelled by a small electric motor. Current models can reach speeds of 15 mph (24 kph).
Under Jersey legislation, e-scooters are currently classified as ‘motor vehicles’ and as such they are subject to the same licensing, registration and insurance requirements that apply to cars and motorbikes. They are therefore, perhaps curiously, treated entirely differently to e-bikes (which are not ‘motor vehicles’ for the purposes of the law).
Oddly, there is currently no registration or licencing scheme in Jersey for e-scooters. More importantly for their riders, it is not possible to obtain a policy of insurance which provides cover for their use in public spaces. As a result, whilst it is perfectly legal to buy, sell and own e-Scooters in Jersey, it is against the law to use them on public roads and in public spaces (which includes pavements and public cycle tracks). Anyone using them in a public space could find themselves being arrested and potentially facing criminal charges, particularly if they are involved in an accident.
Driving without insurance – The Motor Traffic (Third-Party Insurance) (Jersey) Law 1948, provides that it is illegal to use, or cause or permit anyone to use, a motor vehicle on the roads unless it is covered by a policy of insurance which covers third party loss, as a minimum. The maximum sentence which can be imposed for this offence is a custodial sentence of up to 18 months and/or a fine of up to £10,000.00. The person convicted is also likely to be disqualified from driving.
Driving without a licence – The Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956 requires all persons who use a motor vehicle on the roads to hold a valid licence. Whilst it is not currently possible to apply for an e-scooter licence, the law still applies. The maximum sentence for this offence is a fine of £10,000.00 and the Court may also disqualify the person convicted from driving.
Failure to register – The Motor Vehicle Registration (Jersey) Law 1993 requires all motor vehicles which are used on the public road to be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Department (“DVS”). Failure to register a vehicle is an offence which can attract a maximum penalty of a 6-month prison sentence or a fine of up to £10,000.00.
Other offences – It follows from the classification of e-Scooters as ‘motor vehicles’ that a person may also be charged with the offences of drink driving/driving under the influence, and careless and dangerous driving, where the potential sentences range from a fine to prison time and the prospect of disqualification.
It is important to note that if someone is disqualified following a conviction for any offence in relation to the use of an e-scooter, this disqualification would apply not only to the use of the e-scooter but also to their use of a car, motorcycle, or another motor vehicle. The disqualification will usually remain in force until such time as the person successfully retakes their driving test.
In addition to the penalties that might arise from a prosecution, individuals may also face a civil claim for any losses or injuries that might be sustained in the event that they cause an accident whilst using their e-scooter. Given that it is not currently possible to obtain insurance which provides third-party cover for using e-scooters in public places in Jersey, the individual would be personally liable. This means that they would have to find the money themselves, not just for any damages awarded against them but also, potentially, for the victim’s legal costs as well as their own legal costs. This could be very expensive!
Motor Insurers’ Bureau
It appears that uninsured claims arising from the use of e-scooters may be covered by the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement which is operated by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. This scheme exists to protect innocent road users in the event that they are caused injury by an uninsured driver. Judgments granted in respect of claims for personal injuries may be met under the scheme. This is, however, not entirely certain and is untested in Jersey.
The Government needs to take action to clarify the position for the benefit of all concerned. Whilst the Government announced last year that it was commencing work to legalise e-scooter use, nothing has yet been resolved. The Island therefore remains in the absurd position that whilst it is perfectly legal to own an e-scooter it is illegal to use it in any meaningful way.
If legislation is brought forward which continues to classify e-scooters as a motor vehicle, the States ought to give urgent consideration to introducing a scheme which allows them to be registered and for riders to obtain a licence which permits their legal use on the roads.
Likewise, the insurance market needs to develop an insurance product which covers e-scooter users in respect of any loss or harm caused to other road users. This might be sensible in respect of e-bikes as well – the consequences of an accident could be catastrophic for the victim and unless the rider is insured the victim could be left without proper compensation.
In the meantime, it may be as well to put your order for an e-scooter on hold until there are sufficient changes in the law which allow you to use it both legally and to its full effect!
If you have any questions or concerns relating to the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact us.