With dockless electric scooters available in Austin and other larger cities, many people are choosing micro-mobility. Sometimes, the scooters have made it all the way to Georgetown. Ultimately, they could reduce traffic congestion and provide people with new options besides taking the bus or a taxi. But how safe is it to ride a scooter?
Unfortunately, there have been a lot of injuries – and many of them have been serious. That’s one reason why cities are finding e-scooters to be a bit of a headache.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study last year of e-scooter injuries in Austin and found something surprising: about half of the injuries reported were head injuries.
It may not seem like falling off an e-scooter could cause head trauma, but remember that e-scooters are meant to be ridden in traffic. Moreover, most people don’t wear helmets, as they are not provided by the e-scooter rental companies. An injury from an e-scooter accident could come in the form of a collision with another vehicle.
Now, a new study in JAMA Surgery has found that injuries involving e-scooters nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018 – just after e-scooter rentals took off.
Both injuries and hospital admissions are way up
For the JAMA Surgery study, the researchers used data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to get a sense of how common e-scooter injuries are.
One caveat: No one has been categorizing e-scooter injuries separately from other types of motor vehicle accidents. When they have been categorized, data is often mixed in from other types of scooters, such as traffic and mobility scooters. For this study, where the researchers couldn’t verify the scooter type, they did not count the incident. This may have led to an undercount of e-scooter injuries.
The researchers still found plenty of injuries. Considering the period between 2014 and 2018, they found a total of 39,100 e-scooter injuries. Of those, 22,667 occurred in 2017 and 2018, after e-scooter rentals became popular.
Hospital admissions went up, as well, from 715 in 2017 to more than twice as many – 1,374 – in 2018.
The NEISS doesn’t illuminate the circumstances of each injury. These could be simple falls, e-scooters being struck by cars or even malfunctions that injured someone. In the CDC study of Austin, about 10% of injured riders had been in a collision with another vehicle, while 20% said they thought their scooter was faulty.
All of this adds up to one important question: Are you willing to risk your brain? If not, stay off the e-scooters unless you’re willing to bring your own helmet.