A mobility scooter can be a life changing device for people with disabilities and mobility issues.
However, they can also be incredibly dangerous, if they are not used correctly. If you have decided that a mobility scooter is the right aid for you, you’re in the right place because in this guide, we are going to be discussing the do’s and don’ts of using a mobility scooter safely.
Before Operating Your Mobility Scooter
Mobility scooter safety begins long before you mount the vehicle and performing checks prior to each use is an excellent way to make sure that the scooter is in full working order. Moreover, it will help to ensure that accidents do not happen.
1. Check That Your Mobility Scooter is Fully Charged
Mobility scooters run on rechargeable batteries and if these are not fully charged at the beginning of each use, there is a risk that it will drain while in use. Your manufacturer’s handbook will give you details on the range that the scooter can travel on each charge, but this varies massively from scooter to scooter.
Checking the battery level before heading out is especially important if you intend on using the scooter throughout the day. The last thing you would want is to run out of charge and realize that you are stranded with no way to get home.
2. Check Your Tire Pressure
Many mobility scooters come with pneumatic tyres and so it is essential to ensure that you check the tire pressure on these before you use the scooter. Details on the correct inflation level will be supplied with the vehicle so always make sure that this is spot on.
If the tires have air pressure that is too low, this can cause them to wear more quickly on the outside. Even worse, if the tire pressure is too high, they can throw the wheels out of balance since not as much of them will touch the ground and this can affect stability.
3. Ensure Your Lights are Clean and Free of Debris and Working
When you are on your mobility scooter, it is vital that you are visible to others. There are several safety features that help to announce your presence, including tail lights and indicators to show where you are going. These must be checked regularly to ensure they are clean and easily visible.
Moreover, your headlights will illuminate the way for you in low light making it much easier to see where you are going. If they cannot light the way effectively, there is a risk of you missing an obstacle which could result in an accident.
4. Check That the Seat, Backrest, and Armrests Are Positioned Correctly
If you are going to be using your mobility scooter for a prolonged period of time, you must ensure ultimate comfort. There are several ways that you can adjust the scooter to adapt it so that it feels good for you. Primarily, you can usually adjust the height of the seat which is very important over long journeys as having it at the wrong height will quickly become uncomfortable. Making sure that the backrest is moved to a suitable angle will also help in this respect.
If you are tall, you may also be able to slide the seat backwards to give you adequate legroom and prevent you from feeling cramped up. The armrests can be moved into a suitable position and there are some models whose armrests can be made wider for individuals with larger arms.
5. Check That the Tiller is at the Correct Height and Angle
The tiller, at the front of the mobility scooter, is typically easy to adjust. Making sure that this is in the correct position in terms of height and angle will help you to ensure that you do not have to overstretch to reach the controls.
If the tiller is too close to your body, this can restrict your ability to move freely and could result in discomfort at best, or an accident at worst.
6. Check the Mobility Scooter’s Weight Capacity
Every mobility scooter comes with a recommended weight capacity and this is a point that should always be observed upon purchasing your device. Let’s say that the maximum weight is 300lbs, you must not weigh more than this to safely use the scooter. There are scooters out there designed for larger users, so be sure to discuss this when buying yours.
7. Avoid Alcohol and Check Side-Effects of Any Prescription Medication You’re Taking
In order to safely operate your mobility scooter, you must be aware, able, and ready to react. While these devices are classed in the same way as pedestrians, they are motorized and can be dangerous when the user is not physically capable.
Things like drinking alcohol will affect your ability to safely use the scooter so this should be avoided. But you must also check whether any medication you are taking has side effects that could affect the safe use of your device. If medications may cause drowsiness or affect your cognition in any way, you should avoid using your scooter.
8. Avoid Wearing Loose-Fitting Clothing
When travelling on your mobility scooter, loose clothing can pose a safety risk as there is a chance of it becoming caught in the tires. Moreover, things like long skirts and coats or long scarves may become trapped in passing objects so it is important to ensure you avoid wearing these.
Safe Mobility Scooter Driving Tips
Even once you have performed your pre-use checks, it is imperative to make sure that you are ready and prepared for your journey and any eventuality that may arise.
9. Ensure That You Have Sufficient Charge for Your Planned Journey
On the control panel of your mobility scooter, you will notice that there is a battery charge indicator. This is usually a series of LED lights but it may vary from model to model. The more lights that are displayed, the longer the battery will run and if you are going on a long journey, it is crucial that you ensure you have enough charge to go the distance. You can do this by comparing the number of miles you need to travel along with the range of the battery.
It also pays to keep in mind that it is not only the distance that will be a factor. Things like adverse weather conditions, rough terrain, and the weight that the scooter needs to carry will all cause it to use up more power. For this reason, we would always recommend carefully planning your route before leaving home.
10. Check Your Mirrors Before Moving Off
Much like any other kind of motorized vehicle, your mobility scooter is fitted with rear view mirrors. These are there for the safety of you and those around you so you should never move off before checking them.
While it can be difficult to judge how far an object is away when looking in your rear view mirrors, they do provide you with enough visual information to know what is in the way, whether this is other vehicles or people. Use your common sense along with this information to move off safely.
11. Start Off Slowly
When moving off from a stationary position, it is important not to go too quickly. You are responsible for the safety of those around you when using your mobility scooter so when you initially move off, it is imperative that you begin with a low speed. This can be built up once you are certain the route is clear and that you have good control over the vehicle.
12. Perform Turns Slowly
While most mobility scooters do offer a good amount of balance and stability, there is always a risk that the vehicle will tip over. This is especially true if it is not operated correctly. When moving around a corner, it is vital that you take your time and avoid going too quickly.
You should also try to avoid sharp turns and take another route where possible. When travelling, be sure to keep things smooth and try to avoid making jerked movements that could affect the stability of your device.
13. Reverse Carefully
We have already discussed the importance of using your rear view mirrors before moving off but their use continues to be essential for the duration of the journey. When you need to reverse, be sure to first check that there are no people or obstacles in your way.
Moreover, you will need to ensure that you have enough space to perform the maneuver as well as physically turning around if there are any blind spots. In crowded places, this is even more important.
14. Going Over Uneven or Bumpy Ground
Depending on the type of terrain you will be driving over, you may have opted for an all-terrain scooter. These are designed to handle rougher and more uneven terrain but they still have their limits.
This type of scooter will typically have a higher ground clearance which is the space between the base of the scooter and the ground. When moving over bumpy terrain, this larger space will help you to avoid becoming stuck. Heavy-duty scooters may have even greater ground clearance and should be considered if you will be going over bumpy ground on a regular basis.
However, if you are not using an all-terrain scooter then it is a wise move to avoid going over uneven ground. Things like long grass, gravel, and sand are not compatible and should be avoided.
15. Maneuvering on Sidewalks and Paths
There will be a multitude of people and other powered vehicles using sidewalks and this means that you must be mindful of their and your safety. Using your mobility scooter comes with the responsibility of being respectful to other path users and this includes giving pedestrians the right of way.
Moreover, you must alert others to your presence by using audible signals. There is a horn installed on your scooter but this should be used as a last resort and not for every announcement of your presence.
If you are going to make a turn, then be sure to use your indicators so that other sidewalk users are aware of your movements. It is also imperative to regularly check your mirrors to check for anything that is approaching from behind and to keep your speed low when moving through crowded areas. If the path is too crowded, you can drive on the road but this should only ever be done as a last resort.
16. Dealing with Dropped Curbs
It can be intimidating tackling a dropped curb for the first time in your mobility scooter but tackling it head on rather than at an angle will provide you with greater stability. Although, it is important to choose the curb wisely since those that are damaged and do not have an even surface could cause the scooter to become unstable.
Furthermore, mobility scooter users should never attempt to move up or down over a high curb. This is a huge hazard and could result in a nasty accident.
17. Cross Roads the Right Way
Moving across the road poses a significant hazard, especially if oncoming traffic is not aware of your presence. You should ideally cross at specified points such as pedestrian crossings. However, if this is not possible, remain on the side of the road while checking both left and right for oncoming traffic, crossing only when it is safe to do so. If it appears that a vehicle is slowing to allow you to cross, verify this with eye contact.
18. Driving on Inclines and Ramps
It may be unavoidable to drive on an incline but tackling this the right way can make the activity far safer. Your scooter will come with a maximum incline rating which details the maximum angle it can handle while keeping all wheels in contact with the ground. You should never attempt any incline that exceeds this.
When going around a curved incline, you should never attempt to do this from a sideways angle. Always tackle the slope as straight as possible. If you think that you will be regularly going up and down steep inclines, it is worth getting a heavy-duty scooter which generally has a higher incline rating.
19. Avoid Overloading Your Scooter
Mobility scooters come with a maximum weight limit and this should never be exceeded as it will affect the integrity of the scooter. Of course, you will need to take your own weight into account as well as the weight of anything else you will be carrying.
For those that use devices such as oxygen tanks, it is essential to factor this weight in. Moreover, if you are running errands and will be loading shopping bags onto the scooter, these also count towards the overall weight. When carrying bags, you should always keep these in the designated places such as a basket or storage unit within the body of the scooter. Hanging them on the handlebars could cause the scooter to become unbalanced or they may get stuck.
20. Once You Reach Your Destination
When you arrive at your destination, you will need to ensure that your scooter does not pose an obstruction on the sidewalk and that other path users are able to safely move past. Parking your mobility scooter safely is imperative and you should also make sure that there is no risk of theft by taking the key with you and locking any storage compartments.
Your mobility scooter may become damaged if it is exposed to high levels of rain. If the weather is likely to turn or it is already raining, be sure to cover the scooter for added protection.
21. Getting On and Off Your Mobility Scooter
There are a lot of mobility scooters that come with swivel seats which allow you to get on and off the device more easily. If your scooter has this feature, then make sure that you make the most of it for safer mounting and dismounting. You should also lift the armrests as you get on and off the scooter as these may pose an obstruction and a safety risk.
Operating Your Mobility Scooter During the Winter
When winter sets in, pathways and roads take on a different condition and the poor weather conditions can affect your comfort. For these reasons, it is essential that you are properly prepared for using your scooter in the winter months.
22. Ensure You Have Warm and Waterproof Clothing Before Setting Off
If you were walking in cold or wet weather, you would stay much warmer without as much need for additional attire. However, when you are sitting down on your scooter, a sharp wind or hard rain can seriously affect your comfort. It is important to use a blanket to cover your legs and prevent a draught. Moreover, you should dress appropriately, wearing layers to trap body heat.
Even if it is not raining when you leave the house, we would highly recommend taking a waterproof jacket just in case as well as an umbrella. There are a selection of waterproof covers available for mobility scooters which should be used in bad weather to protect the device from damage.
While a mobility scooter is designed to enhance your independence, it is still a good idea to have back up. If you have a cellphone, make sure to carry this with you so that you can contact someone in the event of a breakdown or emergency. There are also GPS enabled medical alert systems which are ideal for people who are vulnerable as they will alert others to your location should you need assistance.
23. Avoid Using Your Mobility Scooter During Wet Weather
Your mobility scooter runs on an electrical system which will be damaged if it is exposed to water. While a short drizzle may not cause significant damage, using your scooter in heavy rain is not advisable. If you can avoid using it in wet weather, we would strongly recommend you don’t. However, if you have been caught in the rain, it is important to thoroughly dry your scooter before storing it.
24. Navigating Slippery Surfaces
During winter, the ground may be much more slippery, especially when the temperatures mean that ice has formed. Going slowly over slippery surfaces will help to prevent an accident and while it may slow your journey, this is far preferable than ending up with an injury.
Operating Your Mobility Scooter Safely at Night
We understand that getting out and about doesn’t just happen in the day. However, if you are going to use your mobility scooter at night, there are some extra precautions you should take.
25. Ensure Your Mobility Scooter and Yourself Are Fully Visible
One of the most simple, yet effective things you can do when using your scooter in the dark is to wear a hi-visibility jacket. This will allow others to see you from a distance but combining this with the use of your scooter lights will ensure maximum safety.
You can also purchase reflective strips and markings that can be attached to the scooter, further increasing how visible you are to others. You may also decide to attach a brightly colored flag to the back of the scooter.