It was a conversation overheard in a supermarket line that confirmed a sneaking suspicion. Two 40-something acquaintances were discussing their latest personal dramas.
He was fed up with the ex-hassling him, the kids were being painful. “Well”, says she, “at least you have your licence back. I’m still off the road”.
Except, of course, she is not. Not 10 minutes before she had zoomed diagonally across a busy intersection, shot up the footpath and pulled up outside the shopping centre door, hopped off a mobility scooter and walked briskly inside.
I’d seen her before belting down the pavement and felt mean-spirited when I caught myself wondering what was wrong with her. Now, close up, it appeared her biggest impairment was no teeth.
There are no rules which prevent a perfectly able person – or specifically someone who has lost their licence for drink-driving – hopping on a motorised scooter and treating it like second – much, much cheaper – uninsured, unregistered car.
The only real restriction on mobility scooters is that they are speed-limited to under 10kmph – double the average walking speed.
The idea that we should regulate mobility scooters sounds positively Pythonesque as if silver-haired hoons are turning sidewalks into a smash ’em up derby.
But there is nothing funny about the figures. Sixty-two people have been killed in mobility scooter accidents in the past decade, with studies suggesting as many as 700 are hospitalised in Australia each year due to accidents involving them.
Which brings us back to our friend. After getting through the checkout she’d turned left into the bottleshop. Perhaps the purchase was for someone genuinely legless at home.