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Disabling the disabled
by Asa Butcher
2008-04-16 09:10:20
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For some years now I have had a pet hate simmering just within my capacity to control its imminent explosion. I have taken deep breaths, counted to ten and projected my mind to a calming 'safe place', but breaking point was reached this week after another bloody mobility scooter whizzed across my path. Usually I fall back upon my relaxation methods, but this week it happened while holding my young daughter's hand and my imagination let loose its worst case scenarios.

I have no problem with elderly, disabled or lazy individuals utilising this piece of technology to manoeuvre around town, but what I despise is the ignorance many drivers display to the remainder of the two-legged public. I would hazard a guess that the mobility scooter that flashed past us inside the shopping centre this week was travelling at 16km/h (10mph) and weighed over 70kg (150lbs), including driver and shopping. It has been many years since my physics lessons, but my paternal instinct told me that force of impact on my two-year-old would cause severe damage.

Let's flip this round. If a teenage boy began riding his bike through the shopping centre at 16km/h he wouldn't travel very far before somebody told him to stop. There are signs on the wall telling him no cycling, signs warning against rollerblading and signs declaring children on wheels will be clamped. However, an elderly man, whose reflexes, sight, hearing and manners are as sharp as a plate full of jelly, can drive a machine indoors at the same speed. How ridiculous does that sound?

Imagine that this elderly mobility scooter driver does hit somebody one day, then what happens? Is he insured? Will he pay for medical costs? Would he be imprisoned for manslaughter if he kills a child through careless driving? How much responsibility do these drivers carry? I have seen mobility scooters driving on the roads, which boggles the mind further! They don't need a licence, the vehicle doesn't need to be taxed, it doesn't need insurance and it doesn't need a certificate to prove it is roadworthy, so what the hell are they doing on a public highway?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Allan R. Thieme's first mobility scooter that he built in Bridgeport, Michigan. According to research, Thieme's motivation to create this product was to help a family member diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A noble invention and a worthy that I do believe does help millions across the world, but it is the minority that use it safely. Yes, the majority are crazy once they strap themselves into that machine and they are crazy because they are no longer allowed or able to drive a car for which there is a reason!

Usually you can't drive an automobile anymore is because of severe health problems, which would place the public in peril if you fired up the ignition of your Honda Civic. However, any Tom, Dick or Harry can find a second-hand mobility scooter from the classified ads, stick a Werther's Original in their mouth and begin terrorising suburbia. Second-hand machines are death traps without any guarantees of the safety features working… safety features like the brakes.

It is somewhat ironic that last week I happened to hear a few minutes of "The Jeremy Vine Show" on BBC Radio 2 (listen here) discussing mobility scooters and the dangers many members of the public have encountered. The proposal was to impose a 4mph speed limit on the machines, which would certainly be a start. We can only hope that the police also begin prosecuting those scooter drivers that insist on using the roads.

Before I end this rant on the curse of mobility scooters, I must narrate a news story I heard a few years ago. An elderly man in a scooter was frustrated at being stuck behind a woman walking slowly, so he simply ran her over. However, he then tried to reverse back over the prostrate woman before trying to getaway. Passers-by had to lift up his back wheels to stop him… amazing!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-04-16 11:26:30
What is most bizarre in this matter is that here in the USA the disabled elderly are able to get one of those mobility scooters completely free of charge: the government pays for it via Medcare. Meanwhile as of now some the same government does not find it very scandalous that 50 million Americans remain with no medical coverage. On the other hand, were Thomas Aquinas been born in this century he would probably respond to this problem by holding on to his ethical motto stated in the Summa that when it comes to the abuse of a good thing by a minority, or even a majority which seems to be the case here, the abuse does not take away the use. The government however ought not facilitate its abuse and ought to protect the victims of the abuse.

Rinso2008-04-16 11:47:26
Good statement Asa.
Those things seem to exist without regulations. Do we have to wait a few nasty incidents before someone in charge recognize the problem?

AP2008-04-17 14:35:22
Crazy that just because they are disabled they are not considered blameworthy.

Asa2008-04-17 18:41:12
As you probably guessed, it boils my blood too!

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