Those who do not hold at least a provisional driving licence face a possibility of criminal prosecution if they are caught riding the orange electrical scooters which are available to hire in Newcastle and Sunderland.
The company which operates the e-scooters, Neuron, says it is aware of a “small number of cases” where underage riders have been caught riding the vehicles.
Under the terms and conditions to hire the scooters in Newcastle and Sunderland, riders must be an adult and have either a provisional or full driving licence to use the electric vehicles, which were introduced into Newcastle in February and launched in Sunderland in April as part of a nationwide trial.
To hire a scooter, riders must download Neuron’s app and enter their driving licence details, but underage and unlicensed riders have managed to rent the vehicles by using somebody else’s details.
The Department for Transport (DfT) told ChronicleLive that all e-scooter riders must hold a full or provisional driving licence.
The scooters are considered to be mechanically propelled vehicles, so anybody caught breaking the law can face prosecution as motoring offences such as driving without a licence or driving under the influence apply.
In some areas 16 and 17-year-old licence holders can hire e-scooters, but in Newcastle and Sunderland they must be at least 18.
A DfT spokesperson told ChronicleLive: “Under the Road Traffic Act 1998, it is an offence to drive a vehicle without a licence that is appropriate to a vehicle of that particular class. The offender could face a fine, penalty points and a ban.”
Neuron says it immediately suspends accounts of anybody who has been caught riding illegally or letting a child use their details to hire a scooter.
It also hires safety ambassadors who are tasked with making sure people stick to the rules and keep an eye out for illegal riders.
Both Neuron and Newcastle City Council say that most riders in Newcastle have behaved responsibly since the vehicles were launched, but Neuron warned rule-breakers of the potential consequences if they are caught.
They said: “Overwhelmingly riders are behaving responsibly in Newcastle but to further highlight the rules and safety tips, we have our safety ambassadors on the city’s streets.
“In addition to helping people ride safely, they keep an eye out for people who break the rules and take action when necessary.
“The police enforce the rules too. Riders need to understand that if they break the law there’s a real prospect of criminal prosecution and, if applicable, penalty points on their driving licences.”
Northumbria Police said officers will speak to children they see riding the scooters, although enforcement will depend on individual circumstances.
In the first two weeks of Newcastle’s scooter trial, Northumbria Police received 33 complaints of ‘nuisance’ use, a Freedom of Information request revealed, including a report of a child playing ‘chicken’ with other vehicles while riding one.
The punishments you may face if caught riding an e-scooter without a licence
If somebody who does not have a licence is caught riding an e-scooter, they could face prosecution. If they have used somebody else’s licence details, it is the scooter rider who is responsible, police say.
Under the Road Traffic Act 1998 it is illegal to drive a vehicle without a licence if the category of vehicle requires one.
If prosecuted, the unlicensed rider faces a fine of up to £1000. They could also be issued with three to six penalty points or a driving ban if they later pass their driving test.
Hiring an e-scooter without a licence could also break the terms of the insurance for the vehicles, which could have criminal and financial consequences if that rider is involved in a collision.
Hiring and riding rules and advice for Neuron’s orange e-scooters
- Riders must be 18 years old and above
- Must have provisional or full driving license
- No riding on pavements
- Helmets should be worn (but are optional)
- Be aware and remove earphones
- One rider per e-scooter
- Keep a safe distance from pedestrians
- Do not ride under the influence of alcohol or other substances
- Keep both hands on the handlebars
- Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles particularly when turning
- Park responsibly and don’t cause an obstruction