Educate users of electric scooters about traffic etiquette, regulations

There have been a series of accidents and traffic violations involving electric kick scooters, which are being used as a convenient means of transportation by a rapidly growing number of people. It is essential to make efforts to ensure their safety, by making people aware of the etiquette and rules involved.

Electric kick scooters are two-wheeled vehicles on which the user stands, and some can travel at 30 kph or faster. They are especially popular among young people because they can be purchased online or at mass retailers for prices starting at tens of thousands of yen, and some can be folded and carried around.

Under the Road Traffic Law, these scooters are treated in the same way as a motorized bicycle, and users are not allowed to ride them on sidewalks. In addition to a driver’s license and a license plate, these scooters also need such equipment as a turn signal, and users are required to wear helmets.

In addition to such traffic violations as driving without a license and ignoring traffic lights, many electric kick scooter users travel at fast speeds on sidewalks. In some areas, police warnings have increased to more than 10 times the levels of last year. Behind the increase in such problems may be the fact that the rules are not well known among users.

There has also been a notable number of accidents in which other people were injured. In one case, an electric kick scooter user was arrested after they allegedly collided with a pedestrian on a sidewalk, seriously injuring the pedestrian, and then fled the scene. It is important for police and local governments to make users well informed of the traffic rules and encourage them to observe proper driving etiquette.

Some businesses sell these products without sufficiently explaining that users are not allowed to travel on public roads without the necessary equipment. They are asked to make sure to mention and explain these points of concern.

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people started using these scooters to avoid congestion on public transportation systems. The number of users is expected to increase in the future, as they are an environmentally friendly means of transportation.

Currently, the National Police Agency intends to continue prohibiting riders from using sidewalks, but it is considering allowing riders over a certain age to travel at speeds of 15 kph or slower without a driver’s license or helmet.

In overseas countries, where the scooters are more widely used than in Japan, efforts are being made to create systems that balance convenience and safety. France, Italy and Germany have already introduced systems in which licenses are not necessary for users of a certain age.

However, if safety is ignored when Japan allows the use of such scooters without a license, that would be getting the priorities wrong. It is important to establish rules and improve safety education in order to prevent accidents.

The law did not envision the spread of electric kick scooters and other similar vehicles. With the advance of technology, new types of vehicles have been emerging. It is necessary to revise the law to keep up with the times and improve the road environment.

It is also vital to consider how to strike a balance among such vehicles, pedestrians and automobiles from the perspective of urban planning.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 12, 2021.