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    SAFETY: Wimmera Mobility Group chairman Geoff Baker shows how awkward circumstances can become as scooter operators navigate around cars. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Call for united mobility scooter safety effort

Wimmera Mobility Group chairman Geoff Baker has urged municipal councils across the Wimmera to maintain footpaths and branches that overhang footpaths.

Mr Baker said uneven surfaces could be problematic for scooter users and low branches could cause problems with their visibility flags.

He also urged communities across the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians to form their own groups to maximise safety in managing mobile scooters. 

Mr Baker said the numbers of ageing, retired people keen to maintain their independence had led to a considerable increase in people using mobility scooters.

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“Another important message is to scooter users to also take care of people around them, especially the users who do what I call ‘speeding’,” he said.

“These scooters can really hurt if you hit someone.  In Horsham, there is a council bylaw to try and regulate how fast you should travel inside and outside the Central Business District. It is walking pace only in the CBD, and 10 kilometres an hour outside the CBD. As a group, we think this is working a lot better than a few years ago.”

Mr Baker said the organisation was called Wimmera Mobility Group but the reality was that only people from Horsham attended its events.

“People across the region are more than welcome to be part of our organisation – but we recommend individual towns to form their own group,” he said. Mr Baker said figures showed that between 600 and 800 people in Horsham alone were using mobility scooters and numbers would be relatively similar in centres across the Wimmera. 

“A smaller town like Warracknabeal, at a guess, would have more than 100, or Edenhope might have 70 scooters. So you can see that it is a significant issue in our region and it is important everyone is aware of the safety issues,” he said.

Mr Baker said the group was concerned about the incidence of accidents involving scooters across the region. 

“This comes in the wake of an increasing number of incidents involving scooters, cars and pedestrians, based on the number of people using scooters,” he said.

Mr Baker said he had been among people involved in one of the accidents, while crossing a road at a Horsham intersection.

He said the incident prompted him to stress a need for people to understand the value and various levels of insurance available, as well as safety and operation procedures.

“Check with your insurance company because you could be covered through your contents cover,” he said.

“It’s important for everyone to remember that people are operating scooters on a footpath or public thoroughfare, which can make the user, passer-by and vehicles at intersections more vulnerable to accidents. The real message for scooter users is to be seen. Make sure you have a flag on your scooter and coloured clothing. 

“Being seen is so important. Be thankful that you have a degree of independence, but be aware that there comes a degree of responsibility as well.

“For example, if you are in a scooter and you overtake someone walking, you are probably going too fast. And many people aren’t aware that if they are going to use mobility scooters, they should be prepared to be tested for their ability to operate them efficiently and safely. 

“It is best to check with an occupational therapist before they can be used in public.” 

The entire July 17, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!