Make insurance coverage compulsory for PMD riders

An electric scooter user riding on a footpath at Telok Kurau Road, on Sept 5, 2019.
An electric scooter user riding on a footpath at Telok Kurau Road, on Sept 5, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Madam Yeo Eng Koong, a victim of an accident involving a personal mobility device (PMD), incurred medical expenses of about $18,000 and her dental surgery required another $4,900 (Encounter with PMD rider left woman with 30 stitches, Sept 13).

It was not reported if the rider, Tham Chee Boon, had borne the cost or had third-party liability insurance to cover it.

Life has changed for the worse for Madam Yeo, just 53 years old, who still has frequent headaches and tires easily.

I find it incredible that it is not compulsory for PMD riders to buy third-party liability insurance, to ensure that they are able to compensate victims in accidents that involve their PMDs.

This has to change. Motorists in Singapore have to buy insurance before they can drive on the road. Why should it be different for PMD riders?

There is little point in the authorities' current position of "strongly encouraging" riders to take up such insurance policies. If it were optional for motorists to buy insurance, many would choose not to.

Comprehensive insurance policies for PMD riders are available at an affordable $50 to $100 a year. It would not be unreasonable to make it compulsory for PMD riders to buy insurance to ensure that accident victims are not left out of pocket.

As a former civil servant, I know how difficult it is to enforce rules on the ground, such as the recent move by town councils to ban PMD riding at void decks. How can they catch every errant PMD rider?

Ironically, the fines meted out to such riders would easily cover the cost of the cheapest third-party liability insurance plan.

I urge the authorities to make it compulsory for PMD riders to have a basic third-party liability insurance plan in place before they can register their devices for use on pavements.

Regulators should also work with insurance providers to ensure that coverage is wide enough and not have overly restrictive terms that deny payouts.

And to ensure that PMD riders are not "encouraged" to ride recklessly just because they are covered by insurance, put a "two strikes and you're out" system in place, which will ban PMD riding should a rider be involved in two accidents in which payouts were made.

Douglas Chow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2019, with the headline 'Make insurance coverage compulsory for PMD riders'. Print Edition | Subscribe