Over the past several years, electric scooters have become increasingly available for rent. They seem like a fun, casual way to get from point A to point B, as long as it’s not too far. But cities have struggled with to regulate rental scooters, especially as evidence of serious injuries has mounted.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study of accidents among e-scooter riders in Austin, Texas. The agency found that the majority of injuries were serious ones – far from the skinned knee or sprained wrist one might expect. In fact, that study found that about 50% of all injuries involved head trauma.
Now, a new study has confirmed the trends the earlier studies pointed out. This one, published in the journal JAMA Surgery, indicates that e-scooter injuries have risen dramatically since the rental programs were established.
For example, the research found that scooter-related hospital admissions jumped from 715 in 2017 to 1,274 in 2018.
The study evaluated data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission covering 2014 to 2018. Between those years, 39,100 people were reported injured on e-scooters. Of those, 22,667 were injured between 2017 and 2018. This study found that about a third of the injuries involved head trauma.
There are some weaknesses in the data. For one thing, few hospitals are keeping records of e-scooter injuries specifically. When they do, these are often lumped in with injuries involving mobility or other scooters. And, there is very little data on the cause of each injury, including whether the person was wearing a helmet and whether the accident involved another motor vehicle or a defect in the scooter itself.
The earlier CDC study indicated that about 10% of injured riders in Austin had collided with a vehicle. About 20% blamed their injuries on a scooter malfunction.
In any case, the authors of the new study suspect that they have under-counted the number of e-scooter injuries.
What can be done to prevent more serious injuries?
If you are considering renting an e-scooter, be careful. For one thing, you will need to wear a helmet to prevent a potentially serious head injury – but helmets are not provided with rental e-scooters. That means you need to plan ahead and bring your own helmet from home.
When you rent an e-scooter, examine it for any evidence that it may be faulty or malfunctioning. Then, test it in a short, controlled ride and make sure the brakes are working.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to be aware of the risks and take appropriate care.