The figures, released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, found there were 71 gopher-related deaths and hundreds of injuries across Australia since mid-2000, prompting the Federal Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Craig Emerson to issue a warning in August about the dangers of gopher use.
Injury Control Council of WA chief executive officer Deborah Costello said gopher users were at an increased risk of death and serious injury because generally they were older and suffered the perceptual, cognitive and physical deteriorations associated with ageing.
"The number of gopher users is increasing and will continue to do so as Australia's population ages," Ms Costello said.
She said a number of issues needed to be addressed to reduce the incidence of injury, including driver and community awareness, driver training and lowering the maximum speed limit - which is now 10km/h - to mirror an appropriate walking speed.
Compulsory registration and insurance under a special vehicle category for all gopher owners was another ICCWA recommendation, Ms Costello said.
"People aged 65 years and over contribute to one third of the total number of pedestrian deaths yet this age group only accounts for one-eighth of the total population," she said.
"Like all injuries, deaths and hospitalisations due to a gopher- related incident are preventable." Insp. Neil Royle, from the South Metropolitan District, said gopher users were classified as pedestrians by law, meaning they could travel on footpaths and in shopping centres if they did not exceed a speed of 10km/h.
In situations where a footpath was not available, similarly to pedestrians, the gopher must be ridden against the flow of traffic for visibility. He said there were no licence, training or safe-handling obligations for people to ride gophers and safety features, including seatbelts, helmets or warning devices were not required.
"Gopher users are generally not the most agile or alert members of our community, so if they have impaired hearing or vision they might misjudge the size of potholes or the height of kerbing and fall off or out, which causes significant injuries to frail bodies," he said.
Matt Brown, head of member advocacy at the RAC, said while most gopher retailers limited the speed of gophers to a maximum of 10km/h, there was no law which prevented unscrupulous operators importing gophers that could reach much higher speeds.
"The greater majority of retailers appear to be doing the right thing but the public need to know that if their gopher exceeds 10km/h, even if you don't go that fast, by law they cannot use it in a pedestrian area," Mr Brown said.
"The psychology behind gophers is that they are there to replace cars for people who no longer drive. We have to change this psychology somewhat as gophers don't replace cars; gophers are there as an alternative to walking if you can no longer do so. Maybe we could look at a system where if you buy one or have one bought for you that you have to undergo some training."
Ms Costello said the ability of the person riding the gopher was another key issue. She said if a loved one had lost their driver's licence due to physical and cognitive deteriorations, then they may not be suitable for a gopher.
"All gopher users should have basic skills in co-ordination and strength, physical balance and endurance, vision, perception, thought processes and memory and judgment," she said.
"If gopher users and their families have any doubts about their ability to operate their gopher safely, it is advised they visit their GP, occupational therapist or physiotherapist for a full assessment.
"Everyone has a role to play in preventing gopher-related injuries, including gopher users themselves, the community, policy developers, local government, health professionals and manufacturers."
Independent Living Centre director Gerri Clay advised prospective gopher drivers to do their homework in selecting a model that suited their needs and abilities.
The centre, which offers a free information and advisory service, had a selection of up to 20 models, and an outdoor "track" incorporating varying slopes and terrain, over which the motorised scooters could be tried.
"Often families consider getting their elderly members a scooter if they have lost their driver's licence," Ms Clay said.
"But it doesn't necessarily follow that they can manage one - there are a range of health, cognitive and perceptual abilities that will affect their safety."
"However, when all those aspects are considered, the appropriate model can give independence and a new lease of life."