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The Trouble with Mobility Scooters, TV review: Menacing drivers don't have such an easy ride

  • @willydean

Some documentaries tell you more about something you knew a bit about. Some tell you about something you know nothing about. Then there are those such as The Trouble with Mobility Scooters (BBC1) that present a thesis so seemingly paradigmatic that any TV critic worth their smoked sea salt can't help but alight upon them for an hour.

The Trouble with Mobility Scooters' title causes an immediate dissonance. Devices for people who aren't able to get around to live their lives? Why has nobody pointed out their many frailties before? And why is no one commissioning "The Problem with Nice Sunny Days" or "Dangerous Guide Dogs"?

But actually – actually – in many towns in the UK, mobility scooters are causing a bit of a menace. We're told via a somewhat arch voiceover from Sally Lindsay and some wacky music that accidents involving the booming number of mobility scooters are on the rise, and mostly their drivers' faults.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be laughing at this point –it certainly feels like I shouldn't be – but there's a fairly slapstick air as we watch scooter drivers bumping and crunching into things, while other people complain about being run over while trying to do their shopping at the Trafford Centre.

One woman's woe made me laugh, albeit mainly thanks to a pleasingly Northern reduction of a subject noun that reminded me of a relative of mine: "One Tuesday, it were that busy with mobility, I went home, I were fed up trying to dodge them."

You don't actually need to pass any kind of test to drive a mobility scooter, so people who don't know how to drive, or perhaps don't see or move well enough to, can use them. And cause havoc.

Which is why, at a scooter training school run by South Yorkshire Police, we were treated to the Phoenix Nightsesque scene of an instructor bellowing "WOAH, WOAH, WOAH" as 80-year-old, visually impaired Gordon careered through a red light. He'd been brought by his son in an attempt to persuade him that driving an 8mph vehicle with tunnel vision was a poor idea.

We also got to go inside an insurance company that specialises in dealing with the aftermath of scooter-related accidents. Some of the calls were distressing, others sounded like something from Gary Bellamy's Down the Line. One caller rang up to explain that she'd driven her scooter into a baptismal bath because she wanted to meet the sauve new priest at her church. As she related the story of Father Hunky diving in to the pool to rescue her, you couldn't quite help wonder if it was really driver error that saw her end up soaked.

Of course, while there were funny moments, the nature of mobility scooters means, of course, that they're a serious matter for the people who use them. We met Hazel, who suffers from chronic lung disease, who was tackling plans to curb the benefits which paid for hers. It was only when she read the citation from her carers explaining why she had to have one that she realised just how ill she was.

Then there was 34-year-old mum Emily who's an awful driver, but she's stuck on the thing because she has MS. A scene where she enviously watched an old woman walking while she's confined to her scooter was a wrencher.

Eventually, after all the problems, and the crashes, and the horror stories (including a collision which resulted in a £16,000 lawsuit), the conclusion drawn here seemed to be that scooters are generally a good thing – but there could perhaps be a little bit more supervision so people stop getting clattered. Can't argue with that, I suppose. Just don't get me started on bloody guide dogs.