German insurers worried about accidents caused by rental e-scooters

21 September 2023 — Daniela GHETU

E-scooters in rental fleets cause significantly more accidents than privately used scooters, an analysis by the German Insurance Association (GDV) shows. Rental scooters are responsible for more than half of all e-scooter accidents, although only one in four scooters in Germany belongs to a rental fleet, statistical data show.

According to GDV data, in 2022, around 571,000 insured e-scooters in privately owned caused around 1,850 damages, while 193,000 rental scooters caused around 2,350 damages. “We have a safety problem with e-scooters, and this problem primarily comes from the users of rental fleets in large cities,” says GDV Managing Director Joerg Asmussen.

As a study by insurers' accident research (UDV) shows, safety depends largely on who uses the e-scooter. “Frequent riders usually use scooters to get to work, are over 30, ride on the bike path or on the street, wear a helmet more often and in many cases have their own scooter,” says Asmussen. “Occasional riders, on the other hand, are younger on average, almost exclusively use rental scooters for trips in their free time and ride on the sidewalk more often.”

Another issue arises from e-scooters’ interaction with pedestrians, as according to figures from the Federal Statistical Office they seem to collide with pedestrians more often than cyclists do. “This shows that many e-scooter drivers do not use the cycle path or the street, but rather the sidewalk, even though that is exactly what is forbidden,” says Asmussen. According to the GDV figures, if other people are injured by e-scooters, comparatively high damage is caused. “On average, personal injuries result in expenses of over EUR 13,000, for example for treatment costs, loss of work and compensation for pain and suffering,” says Asmussen. In addition, insurers assume a high number of accidents in which e-scooter drivers alone are injured. However, since drivers in such cases are not compensated by motor vehicle liability insurance, insurers do not have any concrete figures for such accidents.

Insurers require driving authorization and reaction tests

As a consequence of their findings, insurers are calling for the problems caused primarily by rental scooters to be addressed on several levels. Among other things, e-scooter users should be required to provide basic proof of competency to participate in road traffic: “So far, scooter drivers do not have to have any knowledge of the rules at all. “We, on the other hand, advocate that in the future they must at least prove that they have the right to drive a moped, which in Germany young people aged 15 and over are allowed to do,” said Asmussen.
In order to better protect pedestrians on sidewalks, public order offices and the police should also consistently enforce the applicable rules. Further improvements could result from the expansion of the infrastructure and technical adjustments. “We need more and better cycle paths so that occasional users can also get off the sidewalks,” says Asmussen. In addition, larger wheels and indicators could provide more stability and safety. “We also see rental companies as having a duty: They could and should use their apps to better influence their customers’ behavior and, for example, introduce reaction tests to detect when drunk people want to rent a scooter,” says Asmussen.