Electric scooters have been hailed as efficient alternatives in urban transportation. But they aren’t without their downsides, with one of the major ones being injuries. As the number of accidents increases, hospitals and even the CDC are conducting studies to better understand the issue.
Dockless electric scooters from companies like Bird and Lime are popping up all over the place.
They can be found in cities all over the US and around the world, where the scooters can be rented by the minute. Most rides cost just a few dollars and are an efficient way to travel longer distances in cities without using a car or bus.
However, because the scooters can be picked up and dropped off anywhere in the city, riders almost forgo wearing a helmet. That would require them to carry the helmet around with them even not using the scooter.
To make matters worse, the small wheels on such electric scooters make the vehicles less stable than bicycles. While they work great on smooth paths, pot holes or road cracks can easily send a scooter and its rider tumbling. That can spell disaster for riders not wearing helmets, according to a recent CNBC investigation.
Electric scooter injuries stacking up
Many hospitals have begun sharing statistics related to these scooter injuries.
Data from UCLA’s University Medical Center in Santa Monica and Ronald Reagan Medical Center show that 249 people were admitted to their ERs with injuries from electric scooters. Most of those injuries were from falls, not collisions.
The University of San Diego Medical Center says it has admitted 42 people with severe injuries from electric scooter accidents. Of those, only one person was wearing a helmet. A total of 48% of those riders were measured to have a blood alcohol level higher than the legal limit for intoxication and 52% tested positive for illegal drugs.
The phenomenon has grown so large across the US that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has begun their own study. The CDC’s study has been initiated at the request of the Austin Transportation Department and Austin Public Health. The city is host to a large number of various competing electric scooter companies.
Jeff Taylor, the manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health, is overseeing the investigation. He is joined by three CDC epidemiologists who are examining severe injuries from electric scooters that occurred in Austin. The study has already finished collecting its data and is now summarizing its final report.
According to Taylor:
“We want to identify the risk factors for those who get injured, how severe the injuries are and why they’re getting hurt. There’s a perception that scooter-related injuries occur at night. Well that’s not true .Our study will show they occur during all times of the day. People may also perceive there’s typically a car involved. But our study finds most of the time the rider may hit a bump in the road or they simply lose their balance.”
As unfortunate as these injuries are, I don’t think we can be surprised by them.
The scooter companies are reporting tens of millions of rides. With that much usage, it isn’t hard to imagine that hundreds of falls are occurring.
The bigger issue here is why these injuries are taking place. It seems that there are two main reasons both relating to users: inexperience on the scooters and riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Electric scooters are new vehicles to many riders, meaning they often don’t understand how to safely operate the scooters. Small potholes that are barely noticeable to cars can swallow a scooter’s wheel. These are some of the most common accidents and scooter companies need to find a better way to educate riders about these dangers. The method of “here’s a scooter, go have fun” simply isn’t responsible. At the same time, it is important that riders actually listen to these safety warnings. Scooter instructions and warnings buried somewhere in the company’s smartphone app aren’t really going to help riders.
The other issue is scooting under the influence. That’s just plain irresponsible. Police are starting to issue DUIs in many cities for intoxicated or impaired scooter riders, and that makes total sense. Even though drunk scooter riders are more of a danger to themselves than others, there’s still no excuse for operating any motor vehicle while impaired. People can and have been killed in scooter accidents, and this issue needs to be taken seriously.
And last but not least, please wear a helmet. For less than $10 it can save your life. Or get the scooter companies to give you a free one. They are required by law to provide helmets in most cities, which they usually do when asked, even if begrudgingly.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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