Electric scooters have been going from strength to strength recently. This is in no small part due to electric scooter rental start-ups Bird and Lime (each now valued at over $1 billion) expanding their presence in cities across the US. They certainly have their advantages – they’re inexpensive, fun to ride, portable, and environmentally friendly. But there’s another side to the story.
A recent study, published in the JAMA Network Open medical journal, documented the electric scooter injuries seen in two Southern California hospital emergency departments over a one year period.
During the study period, 249 people attended the emergency department with injuries associated with electric scooters. The majority were aged between 18 and 40, although 10% of the cases were minors aged under 18. 92% were riders, and the remainder were pedestrians hit by a scooter and some tripped over a parked scooter, or were injured when attempting to lift or carry a scooter.
Among scooter riders, 80% of the injuries were falls, 11% were collisions with an object, and 9% were riders hit by a moving object or vehicle.
What’s particularly important to note here, is that only 4% of all these riders involved in accidents were actually wearing a helmet. It seems that scooter riders often aren’t taking into consideration that they’re sharing the road with fast-moving vehicular traffic, and are not observing simple safety precautions.
Most of the injuries documented in this study were relatively minor (cuts and bruises, fractures, and sprains). 40% of the cases were head injuries, however, which could have the potential to be serious. Particularly when helmets are not being worn. The study does state that some injuries were “severe and costly”.
So what does this study mean for the future of electric scooters as a form of transportation?
It’s likely that despite the figures, micro-mobility and personal electric vehicles will continue to grow in popularity. Of course, if riders continue to ignore traffic rules and basic safety recommendations (such as wearing a helmet), injuries will keep happening.
Lastly, it could be argued that the number of injuries in this study is actually very small compared to the number of actual e-scooter journeys undertaken during the time period. So it remains to be seen exactly how dangerous scooters can be, as this is the only study to date and only covers 2 emergency rooms which is a very small subset of riders.