Bird Rides launched 10 dockless electric scooters in Santa Monica in September of 2017. Lime launched soon after Bird, and both companies are doing business across the country. Bird now worth more than $2 billion. For a dollar and some small change on a credit card, these scooters can be rented through a phone app. They have been plugged as energy efficient alternative transportation for traveling distances of maybe a mile on crowded city streets. That might be convenient for riders and good for the environment, but they can travel as fast as 15 mph. As the numbers are emerging, electric scooters might not be so good for riders’ health.
Small eight inch wheels on nearly all electric scooters make them far less stable than bicycles. Sure, they do the job on smooth riding surfaces, but small pavement cracks, small potholes or marginally uneven surfaces can catapult riders. Some electric scooter accident victims simply lose their balance when they’re on them.
Hospitals have started to collect and share data on electric scooter accidents. The UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and the Ronald Regan Medical Center have had nearly 250 emergency visits from injuries suffered on electric scooters. The overwhelming majority of those visits were from scooter falls and not accidents with motor vehicles. The University of San Diego Medical Center had 42 people scooter accident victims admitted with injuries that were described as severe. Out of those, only one rider was wearing a helmet. Mail Online reports that early half of the riders who were involved in accidents had a blood alcohol concentration that was higher than the legal limit of .08, and more than half of them tested positive for illegal drugs. Police are now citing drunken scooter riders for DUI.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now started its own study into electric scooter accidents and injuries. Regardless of California’s law requiring helmets, the CDC study has already revealed that less than one percent of all scooter riders in that state wear helmets. People just don’t want to carry them around with them. Helmet use, DUI enforcement and safer road surfaces will all be factors in reducing the number of electric scooter accidents across the United States.