Opinion: With car insurance for youngsters almost £2,000 a year it’s time to reconsider the role of the e-scooter
Young drivers, fear insurance experts, are facing extinction.
Well, perhaps not quite – but with the cost to insure a driver aged under 24 now dangerously close to £2,000 a year, combined with the demand and rising price of second-hand cars (and of course fuel on top) those in the know say costs are fast becoming prohibitive to learners, writes columnist Lauren Abbott.
Not least because the cost-of-living crisis is leaving the bank of Mum and Dad with little slack to pick up the bill.
Parents of teens may be breathing a sigh of relief if that can gets kicked down the road – fewer long nights in store waiting to hear the sound of a key in the door – but also another rite of passage to growing up on hold?
Which is a bitter pill to swallow for a generation which had their last important years of school decimated by lockdown, the credibility of their exam grades called into question by government chaos and are probably now owed some independence.
Enter stage left – the electric scooter.
Now hear me out. I fully appreciate in their current form, amid our current infrastructure, they’ve the potential to be lethal.
And having recently watched two teens play a scooter version of Mario Kart down a main road, less than suitably dressed for the occasion with their jersey shorts, bare legs, socks and sliders for the win, there’s undoubtedly work to be done.
But a visit to Spain this summer showed me another side – where the electric scooter provides many an answer to urban transport problems – and pedestrians, motorists and scooters can co-exist.
And that’s in a country where its air-conditioned, on time, spotlessly clean and close to 24-hour tram system charges you less than 45p a journey.
There, scooter drivers can’t wear headphones, there are speed restrictions, adults are subject to breathalyser tests (and fines!), they can’t be driven on pavements, in pedestrian areas or on dual carriageways and yet it’s a system – at least to a visitor from the outside looking in – that for the most part appears to work.
Young people can get to and from school and college, to their hobbies or sports, or quickly back home from a night out where the return leg doesn’t see them consigned to walking dark streets alone (or in the case of this country – waiting for a bus or train that never comes).
And that’s of course notwithstanding the environmental benefits that come with keeping more cars off the road.
Back home, London is about to start the second phase of its own e-scooter trial.
Where tweaks to the scheme - including lower maximum speeds, more lights on vehicles and unique ID plates on each scooter - will see the rental option rolled out further into participating boroughs.
With fewer than 0.001% of trips so far resulting in a serious injury - TfL says the trial’s strong safety record to date demonstrates the benefits of clear standards and elevated safety requirements for e-scooters.
But if that turns out to be the winning formula for scooting responsibly, is it not high time society embraced life on two wheels?