SINGAPORE - The deadline for personal mobility devices (PMDs) to be certified safe has been brought forward by six months to July 1, 2020, in response to concerns about the risks they pose to the public, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min on Monday (Aug 5).
He also announced that from April 1 next year, all e-scooters will have to go for mandatory inspections.
Explaining the earlier deadline, Dr Lam said it was necessary following a spate of PMD-related fires.
There were 52 such fires reported in 2018, and already 49 incidents in the first half of 2019.
In one case on July 20, a 40-year-old man died in hospital two days after he was rescued when a fire broke out in a Bukit Batok flat. Three burnt e-scooters were found inside.
Dr Lam said the growing number of such fires was "worrying" and that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would take steps to address the situation.
There are now around 90,000 registered PMDs, and for Monday's Parliament sitting, 13 MPs asked questions on PMDs and public safety, including measures to prevent such fires as well as ensure the safety of both pedestrians and riders.
On the revised July 1 deadline to comply with the UL2272 standard, Dr Lam said: "As many Singaporeans rely on PMDs for their livelihoods and their commuting needs, we think this is the earliest reasonable deadline.
"This will also give retailers time to bring in sufficient stock of UL2272-certified devices."
The UL2272 standard is a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system of PMDs, including the battery system.
Devices have to undergo rigorous tests at accredited testing centres before being certified.
The decision to make it mandatory was first announced in September last year.
Retailers have been banned from selling non-certified devices since the start of July 2019, but users who had bought and registered the devices by end-June were originally allowed to use them on public paths until Dec 31, 2020.
The Straits Times understands that the majority of the 90,000 e-scooters registered with the LTA so far do not comply with the standards.
Dr Lam said the new mandatory inspection from April 2020 will check the devices for UL2272 certification and compliance with other device requirements such as weight and device speed.
Existing PMD owners will be called up to get their devices checked at stipulated centres. New owners registering their devices from April 2020 will have to get them inspected before their registration is approved.
The LTA will announce the implementation details later.
Apart from the fires, there were also 228 reported incidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and 2018.
Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) had asked whether, in view of the recent spate of fires, the ministry could place a temporary ban on the use of PMDs until there are proven solutions for their safer use.
Said Dr Lam: "I have asked myself whether we would be better off banning PMDs whenever I read of accidents involving PMDs.
"However, I remember the call to ban bicycles from footpaths a few years ago. After intensive public education efforts and infrastructural improvements, there is now greater acceptance of bicycles in Singapore.
"I am convinced that Singaporeans can be taught to use PMDs responsibly, as they have with bicycles."
He added that the devices have been beneficial to "tens of thousands" of Singaporeans who have adopted PMDs, and that the vast majority of users are using them responsibly.
Enforcement and education are also key to ensure the safe use of PMDs, Dr Lam said, adding that since May, the LTA has more than doubled its enforcement resources.
The number of ground officers will be further doubled to about 200 by the end of the year.
Since May 2018, LTA's officers have detected over 4,900 PMD-related offences and impounded more than 2,100 non-compliant devices, he said.
To expand its enforcement reach, the authority has recently started an 18-month trial of mobile closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) at hot spots, to determine the effectiveness of video analytics software and radar technology in detecting offences such as speeding.
The Government also takes a tough stance against retailers who display or sell non-compliant devices, as well as those who provide illegal device modification services, Dr Lam stressed.
To date, the LTA has taken action against 12 errant PMD retailers.
"We will not tolerate such behaviour and we will deal with them firmly and with the full brunt of the law," he said.
Responding to several MPs who asked if current penalties were adequate, Dr Lam said: "We are closely monitoring whether our penalty regime is effective at deterring errant riding behaviour. We will enhance penalties if necessary."
The Government will also study the issue of insurance and compensation in the event of PMD-related incidents, Dr Lam said, adding that the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) will submit its recommendations later this year.
"We will likely start off by requiring PMD-sharing operators to have third-party liability insurance," he said.
Major food delivery companies like Deliveroo and GrabFood are already providing third-party liability insurance for their riders, while FoodPanda has announced that it will do the same from September, Dr Lam pointed out.
The AMAP and the LTA are also working with insurance companies to offer more affordable products for individuals, he added.