Electric Scooters and Hoverboards

Hoverboards and electric scooters range from fun toys to serious alternative transportation for urban commuters. But fires with hoverboard batteries and regulatory scrutiny of scooter-related injuries have raised concerns over risks for riders.

Electric scooter

Hoverboards and electric scooters have redefined how millions of people get around. The small, compact machines take advantage of powerful electric motors and lithium ion batteries to speed people around at 13 miles per hour or more.

Both products have been associated with battery-related fires that have resulted in property damage, burns and, in the case of hoverboards, at least two deaths.

Electric scooters are increasingly associated with head and face injuries as the devices have become popular among urban commuters. At least two federal agencies are monitoring e-scooters following thousands of reported injuries.

Electric Scooters

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, feature two in-line wheels. An electric motor powers a drive-wheel at the back, and the rider uses a handlebar to steer the front wheel. The rider stands on a platform between the front and back wheels.

These machines are popping up in cities around the United States as pay-as-you go transportation called “dockless mobility.” These are rentals that do not require a fixed dock station for people to pick-up or return bikes or scooters.

In October 2018, a Bloomberg report published by Insurance Journal estimated dockless mobility scooter operations were in more than 100 cities around the world. Bird and Lime, two of the largest dockless mobility companies that specialize in scooters, had provided an estimated 20 million rides on e-scooters as of 2018, the report said.

E-scooters have also been associated with fires, and are increasingly blamed for other serious injuries. Bloomberg reported there are no official counts of deaths and injuries related to e-scooters because hospitals don’t track the cause of injuries.

But news reports have indicated at least four scooter-related deaths between September 2018 and February 2019. In December 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control launched a study into the safety of electric scooters.

Bird scooters parked on sidewalk

Bird electric scooters are available for rent in more than 100 cities worldwide, according to the company’s website.

E-Scooter Injuries

A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open found head injuries accounted for 2 in every 5 serious electric-scooter-related injuries. The study looked at 249 people who had gone to an emergency room following an e-scooter incident.

Study: Most Common E-scooter Injuries
Head Injuries – 40.2%
Fractures – 31.7%
Cuts, sprains, bruises without a fracture – 27.7%
Source: JAMA Network Open, Jan. 25, 2019
About 6 percent of the patients needed to be admitted to the hospital after treatment in the emergency room. This included two patients who were admitted to intensive care units.

The researchers found fewer than 5 percent of the patients had been wearing a helmet. They also observed 193 electric scooter riders who were not part of the injured group. They found more than 94 percent rode without helmets.


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