Mobility scooters are a great way for seniors to get around, but safety should always come first.
With a few simple tips, seniors can learn how to operate a mobility scooter safely and confidently.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
When operated safely, a mobility scooter can reopen a whole new world for a senior with mobility issues. Not to mention that mobility scooters for seniors can also be a whole lot of fun to ride! But are they worth the risk of harm that they can potentially cause from accidents or other mishaps?
Roughly 100,000 mobility scooter-related accident victims per year are treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States. So safety should be the number one concern for all who own and operate a mobility scooter.
Taking the time to focus on mobility scooter safety is the responsible thing that all owner-operators must do both for themselves and for those people around them.
General Safety Tips for Operating a Mobility Scooter
Before operating a mobility scooter, it is important to follow a few safety tips:
- Read and follow all instructions included with the mobility scooter.
- Wear a helmet at all times when operating a mobility scooter.
- Be aware of your surroundings, including other vehicles and pedestrians.
- Avoid wet or icy surfaces.
- Slow down when taking turns or going down ramps.
- Know the local laws regarding the operation of mobility scooters.
- Regularly inspect the mobility scooter for any signs of wear or damage.
- Never operate the mobility scooter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if is safe for you to operate a mobility scooter considering your overall health and medication requirements.
- Never leave the scooter unattended.
- Make sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Always use caution and follow the rules of the road.
Safety Tips for Operating a Mobility Scooter Indoors
Navigating your mobility scooter in tight indoor spaces is your primary concern when operating your scooter inside.
Make sure to keep your speed down and your home clear of obstructions. This will decrease the potential for an accident. For more tips on fall prevention, read our article on Senior Fall Prevention Tips.
Many scooters have a low-speed setting that is appropriate for indoor use. When operating your scooter indoors, navigate in a slower and more cautious speed. Also, use extra caution around small children and pets.
Practice Makes Perfect With an Outdoor Mobility Scooter
Before taking your mobility scooter outdoors, first practice with it indoors and in the immediate area around your home. You should get a feel for how the scooter rides and how the accelerator and brakes work.
Understand your scooter’s turning radius, its acceleration capabilities, top speed, and nuances in handling. Take your scooter for a spin through a safe area like an empty parking lot or other empty open spaces.
You will want to get familiar with the scooter’s center of gravity and how to properly position yourself on the scooter. This includes leaning into your turns properly to avoid tipping or falling off your scooter.
Start slow! Don’t take your scooter out of your comfort zone. Maintaining a slow and controlled approach to scooter riding is your safest bet when learning how to first ride it.
You may also want to become familiar with some of the specific features and modes that your mobility scooter has. Things like freewheel mode and push-too-fast mode can make your scooter safer and more functional.
Before they can enhance your mobility scooter experience, you first need to know what these modes do. You also need to know how to engage and disengage these modes correctly.
Consult your mobility scooter’s owner manual to understand its specific functions, modes, and features fully. The owner’s manual will tell you how to use each of these options safely.
Safety Tips for Operating a Mobility Scooter Outdoors
The outdoor world is full of variable terrain and dynamic conditions. In order to use your outdoor mobility scooter safely, knowing where you should and shouldn’t operate your scooter is paramount.
When operating outdoors it is safest for seniors to avoid the following areas and conditions:
- bodies of water
- uneven or soft terrain
- areas full of dense undergrowth or tall grass
- areas with loose sand or gravel
- high traffic areas
- steep inclines or declines
- excessive ice or snow
The terrain that is accessible to your scooter depends on your particular scooter’s features and all-terrain capabilities. Not all mobility scooters are created equal. This is also explained in our article on all-terrain walkers as well. Read your owner’s manual to understand your scooter’s capabilities and limitations when it comes to different outdoor terrain environments.
Mobility Scooter – Infographic
Operating in a Pedestrian Environment
When operating your scooter on public sidewalks or streets, your risk level increases. When operating on sidewalks, keep your speed low and keep a safe distance from fellow pedestrians. Pass with care and always signal your intention. Obey all local pedestrian traffic laws and signs. Always maintain high visibility by wearing clothing that is bright and have your scooter’s lights on. Use a horn if you need to politely get the attention of anyone around you. Use extra caution when crossing intersections or alleyways.
Some states have specific laws in regards to operating your scooter on the street or sidewalk. It is always good to research the laws in your area regarding your scooter before operating it to avoid any legal problems.
Safe Mobility Scooter Operation
Your mobility scooter’s owner manual will tell you it’s specific capabilities and requirements when it comes to its safe operation.
Your manual will tell you how to safely climb a small step or curb and what the maximum height that your mobility scooter can clear safely. Clearance specifications for a specific scooter can be found in its owner’s manual.
Generally speaking, when riding over a bump, it’s best to approach it head-on with no angle and at a slow speed. Bring your front wheels over the bump first and engage the throttle gracefully once the back wheels have made contact.
Bumps, curbs, and steps can be a major cause for unnecessary falls on mobility scooters, so make sure to operate within your comfort zone. Thoroughly consulting your owner’s manual will give you a good idea of your scooter’s specific capabilities.
Please keep the following general steps in mind:
1. Make sure the battery is fully charged.
2. Place your feet firmly on the footrests.
3. Make sure the speed is set to a comfortable level.
4. Press the accelerator, and the scooter will move forward.
5. To stop, release the accelerator and use the brakes.
6. When turning, use the handlebars to steer.
7. When traveling uphill, use a lower gear.
8. When traveling downhill, use a higher gear.
Once the safety tips have been read and followed, seniors can begin operating their mobility scooter.
Operating a mobility scooter can be a great way for seniors to stay active and independent. It is important, however, to follow all safety precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. With a few simple tips, seniors can learn how to operate a mobility scooter safely and confidently.