DfT consults on compulsory insurance for e-bikes & lawnmowers

21st December, 2016 in Electric bike news

A European Court of Justice judgment may see third party insurance being required for a broader scope of ‘vehicles’ being ridden on private land as well as roads and public places.

The directive follows on from a Slovenian, Damijan Vnuk, being injured after falling from a ladder hit by a reversing  tractor on private property. The European Court of Justice ruled that the accident should have been covered by compulsory vehicle insurance in 2014, despite occurring on private farmland. In doing so, the ECJ concluded that insurance should be required for any motor vehicle propelled by mechanical power and “used in a way that is consistent with the normal function of the vehicle” – concluding that the insurance requirement is determined by its use rather than where it is being used – even on private land.

Where there is no longer the geographical limitation, such that only vehicles intended for use on roads require insurance, this  widens the scope for mechanically propelled ‘vehicles’ used off-road to also require compulsory insurance.

The Department for Transport remains legally obliged to consult on and implement changes to the law for as long as the UK remains a part of the EU. As such, yesterday saw the publication of the ‘technical consultant on motor insurance’ document.

The DfT state that they are “disappointed with the judgment which interpreted the Motor Insurance Directive in a way that neither we, nor many of counterparts across Europe, expected or desired.”

The preamble to the consultation document goes on to say that while the DfT understands “the principle of ensuring that victims of motor vehicle accidents have protection… we have serious misgivings about the extent to which the Vnuk judgment has broadened the scope of the Directive” resulting in “costly consequences” and “challenges” and “interpretive difficulty”.

The document adds that compulsory insurance for a vehicle used on private land is “substantial departure from existing domestic legislation”.

The challenges presented, described a ‘game-changer’ by the DfT, may result in a requirement for the UK to broaden its definition of ‘vehicle’ to include electrically assisted pedal cycles, agricultural vehicles, Segways, ride-on lawnmowers, mobility scooters and fairground rides to name a few “newly-in-scope vehicles” listed in Annex A of the document.

The Government is therefore tasked with considering compensation for accident victims in a wider range of circumstances while attempting to keep the ‘cost-burden’ to a minimum. The document sets out options being considered that reflect European law in the light of the Vnuk judgment, tackling penalties and enforcement for non-compliance and whether to derogate certain vehicles from the requirement for compulsory insurance.

The consultation period runs from 20 December 2016 until 31st March 2017.