Two days ago I was nearly the victim of a potentially nasty accident. I opened the front garden gate of my home with the intention of taking a short walk to the local newsagent. And nearly walked straight into the path of a mobility scooter driven by a bespectacled, elderly woman at what must have been running speed. I stepped back on a reflex, saving myself from serious injury or worse by microseconds.
The woman continued on her way without giving me any acknowledgement whatever. Further down the road she weaved her vehicle quite deftly around a young mother with a child in a buggy.
I hadn’t realised that these things could go quite so fast. Hers was what must have been a top-of-the-range model as these contraptions go, and pretty substantial with it. I mean, had it and I made contact I think that more likely than not she would have been quite unscathed. As for me – well the size and weight of that thing, and the speed at which it was going could well have killed me.
OK, so the market town where I live in the county of Wiltshire has a couple of estates of bungalows much favoured by elderly retired people. They are a good way from the shops, and so it is easy to see the appeal of these scooters to those who have mobility difficulties. And it is good to see them able to socialise with their friends in the cafés in the town centre. So far, so good. I myself am retired (but chose with my wife to live within easy walking distance of the town centre. It is noisier and less sedate than the leafy bungalow estates, but on balance we prefer it) and my years as a GP have made me familiar enough with the challenges which beset elderly folk. But I asked myself: is there any effective regulation governing the use of these things, or any proper assessment required to ensure that their drivers are mentally and physically competent to operate them? My fleeting glimpse of the driver of the one that nearly did for me suggested that her eyesight was at the least deficient.
And these things, being electric, are virtually silent. My hearing is still pretty good, but I heard nothing of its approach. I was reminded of a previous time when I almost fell victim to one of them – that time in a supermarket when an old man did a nifty turn round the end of one of the aisles and then proceeded to overtake all the trolley pushers as if he was on the fast lane of a dual carriageway.
No, I don’t think that mobility scooters should be banned or anything so extreme as that. It is clearly a good thing that folk who might otherwise be housebound be given this means of freedom of movement. But I do think that every one of them should be fitted with a gadget that chimes melodiously or warbles gently to warn unsuspecting pedestrians of their approach. And an able bodied volunteer walking ten paces ahead of the wretched things with a red flag might be no bad thing either.