As the number of e-scooters rapidly increases across the country, so is the number of people showing up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries from riding them.
American cities from Columbus, Ohio to Salt Lake City, Utah have seen as much as a 161% increase in the number of electronic scooter-related injuries, and many of those injuries are quite serious: ankle and wrist fractures, shoulder and clavicle dislocations, and even severe head injuries.
In Dallas County, Texas, a man who fell off an e-scooter died from the head injuries he sustained in the fall. How safe are these e-scooters, and are cities doing anything to protect their residents from getting hurt on them?
E-Scooter Craze and Injuries Sweep the Nation
Many cities, including the capital cities of Utah and Ohio, saw these e-scooters appear on city corners over the summer of 2018, so it’s no surprise that the largest number of motorized scooter injuries documented in those city’s emergency rooms occurred from August 15 to September 15, 2018. Aside from falling, the scooter riders are being hit by passing car drivers who may fail to see them or who simply ignore the rules of the road.
While actual statistics of injuries from “the summer of the e-scooter” will take several more months to compile, the initial findings are not encouraging. People riding electronic scooters on city streets are falling off, getting injured trying to break those falls, riding while intoxicated, not wearing helmets, and are not receiving proper training before hopping aboard these fun, popular–but dangerous–modes of transportation.
Many cities, including Columbus, Ohio, are finally requiring that all riders wear helmets or they will be issued a citation. In several cities e-scooters now have to be ridden on roadways (not sidewalks). Other cities are allowing e-scooters to be ridden only in the bike lanes on city streets. Clearly, the rules of the road regarding e-scooters have not yet been fine-tuned, so lawmakers are scrambling to craft regulations that protect e-scooter enthusiasts.
E-Scooter Manufacturers Taking Precautions
Scooter companies have always claimed that safety is their main priority when designing and building these devices. The top makers of e-scooters currently are Lime, Bird, and Skip, and these companies say their apps and labels on the scooters contain basic safety information and training instructions; however, are riders reading either of those before jetting off at 25 mph down a crowded city street? Bird requires users to upload a driver’s license and confirm that they are at least 18 years old. Bird also asks riders to report incidents involving their scooters to the company. A Bird support team, dedicated to helping with safety concerns and questions, is available 24/7, according to a Bird spokesperson.
All three e-scooter manufacturers have programs that provide helmets to riders who request them. Lime notes that riders of their product must go through a tutorial on helmet safety on the app in order to unlock their e-scooter for the first time.
Bird, on the other hand, has been accused of posting ads on Craig’s List that say, “No experience is necessary.” The company has also been accused of using YouTube videos to train its mechanics.
Before you hop on a motorized scooter to get to work or to take a long lunch, be sure you know how to operate the device; remember to wear a helmet, and be aware that you have to contend with automobile drivers who may not be able to see you or may not follow basic road safety rules.