Beep !

Introduction.

Recently a second person was killed by a mobility scooter and that prompted this page. It is particularly releveent to me because I also own one of these scooters and am therefore aware of some of the dangers.  I see those dangers as ....

1.    The general pedestrian is careless. They back away from other people without looking behind them. They wander into the path of scooters, mainly because they cannot hear them.

2.    Scooter users need basic training in their use, that would make them aware of the dangers and therefore avoid accidents.

3.    At the moment there is no requrement for scooter users to be insured.

4.    At the moment there is nothing police can do to restrict persistantly bad scooter users.

 

Possible solutions.

I think it is a waste of time, to ask or expect pedestrians to chage their ways.  One of the problems with mobilitty scooters is that they are so quiet and the pedestrians cannt hear them behind them, so one solution is to make the scooter more easily heard. Here we have a signal to noise ration problem in that the scooter 'noise' has to compete with the ambient traffic noise levels. Traffic noise accounts for 66% of qall noise generated outside of domestic dwellings in UK and most pedsetrians outside are subjected to noise levels in the range 55 - 75 db's. Obviously if we are planning on increasing the noise level of the scooter to make it's presence more easily detectable to pedestrians, it is going to have to be above 75 db's. 

Mobilty scooter horns generally are ineffective because their sound output is below the ambient traffic noise level. They are also judged to be agressive and threatning by pedestrians, just as honking horns are to car drivers. So whatever the solution is, it has to produce a smile on the face of the pedestrian as opposed to a punch-up. Horns also only work when operated by the scooter rider, and are therefore ineffective is the rider does not anticipate a possible accident, and this means that the warning "I am here" noise has to be continuous when pedestrians are present, so that they can detect the scooter, even if the scooter rider does not detect the pedestrian. 

 

First trial.

I came to the conclusion that rather than a horn or simply "noise", sound would be more acceptable  to both the pedestrian and the scooter rider. However the difference between 'sound' and 'noise' is purely subjective !. It also has to quicky capture the  attention of the pedestrian, against ambient noise levels, people wandering mindlessly along texting on their mobiles, adults having a 'senior moment,, unguided children and women with push chairs and a Bodica complex, ploughing their way through the crowds.  So what would grab their attention ?. It could be music, a swarm of bee's, the sound on a tank, or  a dustbing full of scrap iron being poured onto a tin roof. The roar of a lion might work as well. I posted this question on a forum and it was suggested that "The ride of the Valkyries" by Wagner, might be suitable. So I made up a proto-type out of an old computer speaker and an MP3 player. The latter would allow all kinds of sounds or noises to be tried.

 

With the volume control turned right up, people responded to it several metres away. Thos who recognised the music as comingg from the film "Apocalypse Now", generally smiled, stopped and waved me on. This was not the response that I wanted, because the intention was merely to let people know I was there and not that I wanted to over take them, so I need to do some thinking about this. Another reaction was as soon as the pedestrian sensed the music ... they stopped dead, to see where it was coming from !. I actually had the device in a plastic bag hanging from the handlebars, so that it could not be seen.

One side effect was my own reaction, and I did feel very self concious about being the source of the music, Also I found that after a couple of miles, I felt it was time to change the music !. The MP3 would of course allow that. I would imagine that after a few run's into town, one would get used to being conspicuous, but did wonder if it would help if only the pedestrians could hear the sound and not the scooter rider ?.  That caused me to have a look at parametric speaker system and wondered if one could be produced cheap enough for this kind of application. The advantage would be only the pedestrians in front of the scooter would hear any sound. Anyone at the side and behind would not, including the scooter rider. After looking at the response curves of cheap ultrasonic transducers it was clear that a radiation angle of 80 degree's could easily be acheive with SPL's up to 115 db's using two transducers. The thinking that went along with this is on the "Parametric's" page.

 

Scooter rider training.

At this time you can walk into a mobilty centre and hire a scooter for a day, for only 3, with little or no training. I think this is a dangerous practice because the hirer cannot know the consequence of their actions until after they have an accident. They have no idea of the possible dangers and how to avoid them. I think it would be a good idea for potential scooter driver to take part in a compulsory training course, lasting at least one hour, in order to obtain a certificate of competence. If they have an accident or be seen to be driving dangerously, they should be retested.

I also think that the insurance companies should bring out an affordable policy for scooters and that insurance should also be compulsory. This is also to protect the scooter user because I am sure that many old people do not realise that they can be sued for any damage or injuries that they could cause.

Much of the above is common sense, and some simple rules could prevent a lot of accidents. First speed must be reduced in the presence of pedestrians. It has to be remembered that pedestrians have the right of way ... simply because you are not allowed to run over them !. Driving the scooter on the kerb side of the path is another MUST!.  Pedestrians stepping out of shops without looking is a major cause of collisions. They do not see you and you do not see them!. If you drive on the kerb side of the path, it gives both the scooter rider and the pedestrian, more time to avoid a collision.

 

Police powers.

I think we already have too much legislation restricting peoples rights and imposing registration and taxing scooters will not stop a single accident. On the other hand police must have the powers to stop maniac drivers of any form of vehicle causing accidents. This should include the power to cancel a persons certificate of competence to drive a scooter and insist on a re-test. Persistant offenders need to be stopped using their weapon of choice.

 

Scooter manufacturers responsibilities.

Accidents happen because no one has done anything to stop them happening, and this also includes the manufacturers of scooters. As we have seen, many accidents happen simply because the pedestrians do not know the scooter is there, because they are so quiet in operation. I think it should be they who address this problem. I am 70 years old and if I can see these problems then so should they and they need to do something about them.