A reader contacted The Senior List® recently, saying she had acquired a mobility scooter, but still had questions about the “etiquette” around mobility scooter use.
Is there a way to secure the scooter from theft? Also what is the best way to negotiate elevators and crowded spaces, while ensuring the safety and comfort of myself as well as anyone in the vicinity?
These are good, thoughtful questions that have tried and true answers, the most basic of which is the universal rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you.
The number of people using mobility scooters, whether permanently or short-term, will continue to grow as the population ages. As such, hotels, tourist attractions, public transportation, office and public buildings have become increasingly scooter-friendly.
Even so, if you’re heading somewhere, it's not a bad idea to call ahead or visit the destination’s website to verify that they can accommodate a scooter.
9 Tips for Safe Mobility Scooter Use
The following nine points represent questions frequently asked by novice mobility scooter riders:
#1. Get to Know Your Scooter
First, get to know your machine before taking it anywhere. Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor scooter, find a suitable place to practice starting, stopping, reversing, turning, and getting in and out of the machine. As you can imagine, knowing how much room you need when turning is crucial.
#2. Call Ahead
Whenever you’re going somewhere you and your scooter have not been before, whether a private home or public building, call ahead and ask questions. Have the weight and dimensions of your scooter in hand before phoning. Knowing what your turning radius is by now, you can make also communicate how much space you need to make a turn. Here are some questions you could ask:
- Does the building permit mobility scooter use inside? Is there a suitable ramp out front? If yes to both, will you need to leave it at some point (to enter an elevator, a hotel lobby, a dining room, or an office, for example)?
- If you will need to park it, where will you be allowed to do so, and is it a secured space? (There are three other methods for securing your scooter which are discussed below.)
- Are there specific times of day when you could expect less “traffic,” as you want to make things as easy as possible for all concerned?
- Will there be any issue entering and using a restroom?
- Ask the person you’re speaking with if they know of any other factors to be considered.
#3. Take it Slow
Always, when around others, whether indoors or on the pavement, drive slowly. This allows you to pay attention to the surface beneath your wheels and to what others are doing. The results of this approach are that you have more control over what happens. Know the rules of the road for your outdoor machine. Some of the larger, high-end models are allowed on the streets, but most mobility scooters are to be used on sidewalks and crosswalks.
#4. Stay Right
Just as pedestrians should, if the path or corridor allows it, stay to the right and pass on the left, looking behind you before pulling over to pass.
#5. Be Considerate
If you think you are slowing others, periodically pull over and let people pass. In the long run, this will save you all time and frustration.
#6. Don't Call and Drive
Just as when driving a car, if you get a call and decide to take it, pull over.
#7. Ring Ring!
A horn or a bell of some kind is useful for alerting those in front of you, or who may be around a corner from you, that you are coming. The courtesy will be appreciated.
#8. Rent Something Similar
If you’re traveling out of town, whether for business or pleasure, rather than taking your scooter with you and risking its being lost or damaged, attempt to rent the same – or a sufficiently similar – unit at your destination. Again, ask questions as to whether the places you wish to visit can accommodate a scooter.
How to Safeguard Your Mobility Scooter
There are three primary methods – apart from simply placing your scooter in a locked room – for securing your mobility scooter when out and about. Not surprisingly, they are much the same as those used by bicycle or motorcycle riders:
- A cable lock: These are often used for securing bicycles. Two caveats: (1) It may seem obvious, but it must be said: be sure the portion of the scooter you wind the cable through is not removable. (You can ask the manufacturer for suggestions if you have any doubts.) (2) Buy a “tool-hardened lock,” meaning the lock will stand up to drills and cutters. Granted, the cord is somewhat vulnerable, but, depending on the where the machine is parked, the lock and cable may prove a sufficient deterrent.
- An alarm: Emitting a loud, shrill noise is a sure way to scare off most would-be thieves. Some of these alarms include not only several volume settings but a motion-detection feature.
- A wheel clamp: Just be sure to take careful measurements beforehand to avoid having to return the clamp for being too small.
A final note, don’t forget to talk to your insurance agent about adding your scooter to your policy. This is an investment worth protecting. And, while you’re at it, ask if there’s anything you can do to lower the cost of your premiums, perhaps by adding one or more of the above security measures.