Wagin police officer clarifies the road rules for gophers

Wagin officer in charge Sergeant Jason Liddelow has clarified the road rules around people riding electric mobility scooters or 'gophers'. Pictured are people participating in the Haines Tyres Gopher parade at the 2015 Merredin Show. Photo: Bill Last.
Wagin officer in charge Sergeant Jason Liddelow has clarified the road rules around people riding electric mobility scooters or 'gophers'. Pictured are people participating in the Haines Tyres Gopher parade at the 2015 Merredin Show. Photo: Bill Last.

The Wagin Shire is asking local gopher users to be careful on the roads as the number of these vehicles being used continues to rise on a yearly basis.

Electric mobility scooters or ‘gophers’ have become increasingly popular for those unable to walk all the way to the shops but want to maintain independence.

“A couple of people have come in and asked me what are the rules for gophers on the roads,” Wagin chief executive Peter Webster said.

“I’d prefer to see them on the footpaths but obviously not everywhere can they ride on the footpaths.”

Gophers under the road traffic code are considered motorized wheel chairs but are also considered, as far as the road laws go, pedestrians.

“That’s provided they don’t have a maximum speed of more than 10 kilometres per hour,” Wagin officer in charge Sergeant Jason Liddelow said.

“Which means they can go on the footpaths.”

Gophers can also go on the road if the footpaths are not available where they’re going or if they’re not of a reasonable condition.

“If they’re old slabs or if they’re bumpy then that’s considered to be unsuitable for them and they can travel on the road,” Sgt Liddelow said.

Like pedestrians they’re supposed to go contra-traffic, meaning they are meant to go on the other side of the road and face the oncoming traffic.

“Generally we would prefer to see them on the footpaths if the footpaths are in reasonable condition,” Sgt Liddelow said.

“It can be a bit unnerving for traffic coming the other way obviously but that’s the letter of the law.”

Wagin will be carrying out a comprehensive upgrade of the footpath network in town in the coming months, aimed partially at helping those in mobility scooters.

“That footpath program will also assist the people with the gophers where they’ll have a bit of track to ride on when they’re going to and from the shops,” Mr Webster said.

With a growing aged population in regional areas and the more affordable models becoming available, Sgt Liddelow said more are likely to be see about town in coming years.

“I think the community needs to be mindful that they’re out there and that as time goes on we will see more because we are an aging population,” he said.

“I can see gophers will become a popular form of transport for the elder or the infirm to use to get around as they get cheaper.”

For more information on road safety and operating gophers on the road visit the Road Safety Commission website.