Insurers have seen a steep upsurge in claims for personal injury and property damage resulting from incidents involving e-scooters and are demanding more enforcement.
“We do not need more regulations or laws. What we need is to enforce what is already in place,” Malta Insurance Association president Anthony Cauchi told Times of Malta.
E-scooter riders are meant to abide by the Highway Code. They are not permitted, for example, to drive against the flow of traffic, run red lights or go up one-way roads – yet this has become a common sight on the streets as e-scooters proliferate.
E-scooters must also be registered and insured but because they are sold as toys, it is doubtful how many of those bought in the shops are taken out on the street with such documentation.
Cauchi said that for the country to get the most out of green means of transport like e-scooters, the regulations must be enforced in their entirety.
“We support the use of less polluting and affordable modes of transport that can also ease traffic congestion, but the right balance needs to be found between these objectives and the safety of the riders themselves and other road users,” he said.
He suggested that while the regulations in place are generally quite good, “the time for some tweaking is now overdue”.
The association believes that the maximum speed allowed when e-scooters are used on pavements or pedestrian zones should be reduced to just six kilometres per hour, down from the present 10 kilometres per hour.
“The real problem, which we have been speaking about since these e-kickscooters were launched, remains that there is a total lack of enforcement and this is evident by the continuous breaches witnessed every day,” he said.
Cauchi said the association was concerned that “a good number” of e-scooters, especially those which are easily bought off the shelf from a retail outlet, are not properly registered and insured as they should.
He said that despite the obligation to license and register the device together with insurance, like any motor vehicles, it is very easy to buy one without producing the necessary documentation.
“This is quite an anomaly at law and the MIA has for long suggested that this issue is sorted,” he said.
Cauchi said it appeared that neither the police nor community officers were prepared or sufficiently resourced to carry out the enforcement needed.
“It is no surprise that people are getting hurt and things can only get worse as riders will be willing to take more risks when they see that there is no enforcement. With these devices capable of reaching high speeds exceeding 30km/hr, one should consider the use of crash helmets too.
There has recently been a spate of serious accidents involving young people riding the scooters, including head injuries.
“It is welcome news that Transport Malta officers will now be empowered to enforce the rules, but we will need to see this happening in practice before we can be confident that matters will improve,” he said.
Transport Malta officers will, like the police and wardens, be empowered to enforce e-scooter regulations, the state agency told Times of Malta last month.
“TM is in the process of amending the law to empower its enforcement officers to be able to enforce the applicable legislation,” a spokesperson said when contacted.
The move comes as Times of Malta reported that elderly St Julian’s residents are scared to leave their homes, afraid that their path along pavements will be blocked by abandoned e-scooters.
In recent weeks, residents in other areas, especially Sliema and Gżira, have also repeatedly complained about abandoned scooters getting in their way on pavements, at times even blocking garages.
The issue is one of a series of problems that 12 localities from the Eastern Region say they constantly face as a result of lack of enforcement of scooter rules.
They are calling for action as the popularity of scooters soars, saying the lack of enforcement often results in accidents and obstruction.