The users of electric scooters, hoverboard and even wheelchairs will in future need to have insurance, according to a ruling by the Constitutional Court.
Prior to the ruling, insurance was only required for a self-propelling vehicle able to travel at a speed in excess of 25 km/h. An exception was made for Class A mopeds which cannot exceed that speed limit but still have to be insured.
The Constitutional Court was responding to a request for a ruling from a court in East Flanders in relation to two cases before it. One concerned a man convicted for riding a moped without insurance, who complained that scooter and electric bicycle users were able to travel at the same speed without insurance.
The second case, more oddly, was a man convicted of driving a cherry-picker without insurance, who argued that the vehicle was not able to exceeds 25 km/h and was besides not a moped.
The court looked all the way back to the parliamentary debates involved in the creation of the legislation, and found that the legislator had been concerned, in the case of the moped, with both the speed of the vehicle and its mass. A moped is at the same time able to reach a relatively high speed while being extremely light. The two things together create a certain risk.
Yet when the legislation came to be drafted, the court said, only speed was taken into account. That had the effect of suggesting that a 7.5 tonne cherry-picker platform was considered less dangerous than a moped.
However fortuitously, that particular case has been resolved for the future, as the day before the court’s verdict, a law came into force which includes raised platforms and other construction vehicles expressly within the speed limit laws.
As far as electric scooters and the like are concerned – electric sharing bikes will also be covered – users can now be fined for riding without insurance. If the police decide to go down that road, the courts will be obliged to follow.
It will then be up to the legislator to deal with the issue, according to Barbara Van Speybroeck, spokesperson for insurance industry federation Assuralia speaking to the VRT.
“If the courts follow [the ruling], then it is up to politicians, which can do various things. They could write a new law, with clear criteria. Or we could fall back on a European directive, which stipulates that all motorised vehicles must have compulsory liability insurance. If our country falls back on that directive, electric scooters and the like would also need insurance.”
In some European countries, she pointed out, such insurance is already mandatory.