Oct 21 2020

e-Scooters and drink driving law

Do drink driving laws, and road traffic laws generally, apply to e-scooters is a question we are asked regularly. The short answer is: “yes, the rules apply”. The long answer is below.

Drink driving offences are committed by somebody who drives a motor vehicle on a road or other public place while their breath alcohol level exceeds 35µg per 100ml of breath. There are several terms in there that need to be defined so here goes:

  • The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the Road Traffic Act 1988 define a motor vehicle as being a mechanically propelled vehicle that is intended or adapted for use on roads. Electric vehicles have long been held to be “mechanically propelled” from as long ago as the 1917 case of Elieson v Parker where an electrically propelled bath chair was held to be a mechanical vehicle, although why somebody was driving a bath chair on a road is something the law report sadly did not record.
  • A road is defined in the 1988 Act as being any highway and any other road to which the public has access. The case of Price v DPP, tells us that the pavement is part of the road.
  • A public place can be a little complicated to define but broadly speaking if the general public (as opposed to a subset of the public) can access the place without restriction then that place is public for drink driving offences.
  • A driver is anybody exerting control over the motor vehicle. There may be more than one driver at a time, for example, in Tyler v Whatmore, a girl sat in the passenger seat was held to be driving along with the man in the driving seat as she had both hands on the steering wheel and was obstructing the man’s view by leaning across him.

e-Scooters are billed as electric personal transport devices that allow people to travel around cities simply, cheaply and in an environmentally friendly way. As such, they are indisputably motor vehicles as they are intended for use on roads and are mechanically propelled.

Because e-scooters are motor vehicles so far as the law is concerned both they and their riders are subject to the normal road traffic laws. This means that e-scooters must be registered, fitted with a number plate, insured, and taxed. It also means that their riders commit a criminal offence if they drive their scooter over the drink driving limit, without due care and attention or dangerously. A conviction could therefore mean the loss of your driving licence meaning you would not be allowed to drive a car.

If you have been accused of an offence involving a motor vehicle and need legal advice, then pick up the phone and call us on 020 8242 4440 or email us via our contact page.