Mobility scooters can be helpful pieces of technology, ferrying you around with style and physical ease. Still, they can also be quite CHALLENGING to use if you aren’t familiar with the controls.
It’s important to reflect on this question of how to drive a mobility scooter. They are increasingly widely used, but studies show that higher usage rates have been accompanied by higher accident rates.
Are you planning to buy a mobility scooter? Or are you trying to learn how to use one? This article will guide you through everything you need to know about operating a mobility scooter.
General Driving Guidelines
There are two primary rules around the operation of power mobility aids set out within the Americans with Disabilities Act. First, you need to operate it at the speed of pedestrian traffic.
As long as you do everything you can to follow along with the traditional pedestrians around you, you are fine. But if you’re zooming through a crowded area at 15 miles per hour while other people are ambling at 5 miles per hour, you risk getting pulled over.
The other rule is to identify spaces where your scooter is not operable. Sadly, you cannot use a scooter wherever you want to, so it’s important to be vigilant and think through whether it will be a workable mobility aid in a given space before entering that space.
Basic Driving Tips
Every scooter is slightly different, but most have five parts that you need to understand to operate them: the ignition, the throttle, speed control, handlebars, and brake.
Just as in a car, you need to turn the ignition to get the vehicle going. Once you’ve done so, you can control whether you go forward or backward by using the throttle.
This component typically works via two small bars that are located below the handlebars. Pressing on the left bar makes the vehicle move forward while pressing on the right one makes it move backward.
Usually, you control the speed of your scooter with a knob located on its control panel between the handlebars. You use the handlebars to steer and determine where the vehicle will go.
There are a couple of different brakes your scooter might use – electromagnetic and manual.
Manual brakes work very similar to bicycle brakes and require some grip strength and dexterity. A brake lever is placed in front of one of the handlebars that you can press to make the vehicle stop.
Scooters with electromagnetic brakes are very different. On those, the brakes automatically engage if you are not activating the throttle to move forward or backward.
Turning and Stopping
On a slightly more advanced note, it can be challenging to turn and stop a scooter, especially if you have manual brakes.
Doing so is significantly easier if you can shift your weight to help out in that process.
Turning is challenging because scooters are difficult to handle. They require a big turning radius before they work well.
But if you lean into the turn, allowing your weight to increase the vehicle’s maneuvering capacity, you will be helped.
Manual brakes make stopping a challenge as well. But the challenge is surpassable through leaning your body.
If you’re stopping or slowing down from going forward, you can lean back to make that process more manageable, and vice versa if you’re stopping from going backward.
Improper use of a power scooter puts the user and those in the surrounding area at risk of harm and injury. Therefore, always prioritize safety when you’re using the scooter.
Yes, mobility scooters have several benefits, but studies show risks of use, including injuries and even deaths.
Each vehicle has different foibles which require different handling strategies. Because of this, make sure you study the handbook that comes with your scooter before driving it out in the world.
There are several general safety considerations to put in place, however.
First, always make sure you have prepared your vehicle appropriately before using it. That means it needs to be fully charged and customized to your specific needs as much as possible.
If your scooter runs out of battery while you’re in the middle of using it, you risk harming both yourself and those around you. Further, that will damage the battery in the long term.
Batteries should last two to three years, depending on how you use and store them. Battery capacity will degrade over time. Eventually, you will need to replace the battery of your mobility scooter.
Also, never bring your scooter into a road intended for bicycles or cars, unless it is expressly also intended for power mobility aids. A mobility scooter’s driving restrictions vary from city to city and state. Generally, mobility scooters can go on the road if they reach 8 mph.
Even though you’re traveling more quickly than a pedestrian, you aren’t traveling as quickly as bicycles and cars.
Make sure you wear proper clothing for a scooter before going out in one. Flip flops and shorts are inadvisable because they can easily slip off the places you have to grip onto the scooter.
If you need to wear shorts because of the weather, avoid slippery athletic shorts. Instead, wear thicker material like denim.
Pros and Cons of Using a Scooter
Even though mobility scooters can be quite helpful, there are also a few drawbacks to using one.
First and foremost, power scooters can be quite preferable to something more manual like a non-power wheelchair. Some scooters allow you to travel up to 18 miles per hour at distances up to 45 miles (in a single charge).
These vehicles are also typically relatively portable. You can wholly fold up some designs and carry them around in a case, but you can easily disassemble all models and transport them in cars and other such means.
As we’ve seen, mobility scooters can be a significant challenge to handle in turns. In many public spaces, especially indoor ones, the immense turning area these vehicles require is often unavailable.
Further, running out of battery in one of these scooters can be disastrous. You can become stranded without any way of moving around if you aren’t careful.
Final Thoughts on How To Drive a Mobility Scooter
While there are certainly dangers behind driving one of these powerful machines, it isn’t too difficult to understand once you get the basics.
Make sure you take the time to research and understand your particular scooter but don’t let the dangers scare you away from taking advantage of its helpfulness.