Australia Senate committee to investigate mobility scooter safety concerns

19:32  06 december  2017
19:32  06 december  2017 Source:   ABC News

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Justice Party Senator Derryn Hinch at the launch of his book 'Hinch vs Canberra' at Parliament House in Canberra.© AAP Image/Mick Tsikas Justice Party Senator Derryn Hinch at the launch of his book 'Hinch vs Canberra' at Parliament House in Canberra. A Senate committee will delve into the burgeoning mobility scooter industry to look at whether the use of the electric vehicles should be more tightly regulated.

Nationals Senator John Williams and crossbench Senator Derryn Hinch have successfully referred the issue to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.

The probe will investigate the number of injuries and fatalities involving the popular form of transport, and the different ways the scooters are regulated across the country and the world.

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In Australia, riders do not require a licence, insurance or ongoing eyesight or other health checks to get behind the wheel.

Senator Williams began advocating for tighter rules for the scooters after his wife Nancy was hit by one and sustained a serious hip injury.

He said statistics collected by Monash University between 2000 and 2010 across the nation illustrate the potential dangers.

"Sixty-two people killed in those ten years and 442 people hospitalised," he told the Upper House.

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"Of course it was very public when my wife got hit by one and she's all very good and I'm pleased about that."

Senator Williams said he had been contacted by others once he raised his initial concerns, including a woman injured in similar circumstances.

"She was walking down the street in Ballina and got hit from behind by a mobility scooter: multiple fractures to both legs, four months in hospital and has never recovered properly," he said.

"That is only one incident, there will be more of these."

Senator Williams said the push for further scrutiny was not about outlawing mobility scooters.

"They are an essential item, I have no intentions of ever pushing to ban them," he said.

"I just think we need to have a good look at the industry, the circumstances, and see what we can do to make it safer for all Australians in the future."

The probe will investigate the number of injuries and fatalities involving mobility scooters.© Provided by ABC News The probe will investigate the number of injuries and fatalities involving mobility scooters. Hinch supports inquiry

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Senator Hinch said he co-sponsored the motion to set up the inquiry because he could see a case for the weight and speed of the electric scooters to be checked in order to make them safer.

"One of my staffers, her mother ended up in hospital with bad hip injuries because her partner — inadvertently I hasten to add — ran her over in one of these motorised scooters and he was in his 80s and legally blind still driving it," he said.

Senator Hinch also stressed his support for the inquiry was not an attempt to have the scooters banned.

"I wear a knee brace, I may need one of these things myself at some stage," he said.

Senator Williams has previously secured support from his Nationals colleagues for a non-binding motion at the party's national conference this year to limit the speed of the scooters to 6 kilometres per hour.

The senator has also suggested some scooters can reach top speeds of 35kph, a claim that has been queried by a leading retailer.

Greens question whether inquiry 'genuine'

New Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John was approached to support the inquiry but confirmed to the ABC that his party was not in favour of it.

"The Australian Greens did not support Senator Williams' motion for an inquiry into mobility scooters because it does not come from a place of genuine concern for the safety of people who need mobility assistance," he said in a statement.

Senator Steele-John has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

"An inquiry would look into regulations which may introduce further barriers to maintaining independence for people who journey with a disability, or are injured, frail or elderly and require mobility assistance," he said.

The committee will report back next September.

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