Chances are if you’ve been driving around town or in your neighborhood you’ve seen someone zipping by on a two-wheeled electric scooter. These zippy, motorized scooters are an economical and eco-friendly means of transportation for those who need to commute short distances.
Scooter pilot programs are popping in big cities across the country, such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin and Chicago to test the viability and safety of these modes of transportation. The National Association of City Transportation Officials reported that in 2018 alone Americans took 38.5 million trips on shared e-scooters.
Are Scooters Safe?
Electric scooters have grown increasingly popular, but this trendy mode of transportation may be sending more people to the emergency room than bicycles and walking. Something as simple as a pothole or crack in the street could send someone flying, which may be why emergency departments are seeing more concussions and fractured skulls along with broken legs, wrists, elbows and hips.
“In Tucson, Arizona, we saw roughly 20 cases of e-scooter crash patients within just three months of starting a test pilot program here,” said Melissa Anderson, Trauma Program Manager at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson. “This doesn’t include the number of cases at other urgent cares and emergency departments in the area.”
“While these are fun modes of transportation, it’s still a moving vehicle. If you fall, you are going to get hurt,” said Andrew Tang, MD, trauma surgeon and trauma medical director at Banner - University Medical Center Tucson, the only level 1 trauma center in Southern Arizona.
E-Riding Safety Tips
If you are looking to take the e-scooter plunge, here are four tips to keep in mind for road and sidewalk safety:
1. Wear a helmet.
“Head injuries can occur from scooter crashes or falls just as they can with riding a bike,” said Anderson. “Safety equipment is always good, but at the very least protect your head and wear a helmet.”
2. Use both hands.
Jetting across town on your scooter is not the time to take a call or selfie. Make sure you have both hands securely on the handlebars at all times. E-scooters are powerful and accelerating quickly without both hands on the handlebars could send you flying backwards.
3. Be aware and cautious.
Whether in your neighborhood or a busy street downtown, be aware of your surroundings, the speed of traffic and other drivers. It’s also best to forgo listening to sweet tunes or a podcast until you arrive at your destination so you can pay close attention to oncoming traffic.
“You’re only 50% of the traffic equation no matter how careful you are, so watch for distracted drivers and avoid areas where it is difficult to see you,” Dr. Tang said.
4. Don’t ride under the influence.
CDC researchers found that drinking may have played a role in the injuries suffered by scooter users. In the study, one-third of respondents acknowledged that they drank alcohol in the 12 hours before getting injured.
5. Stay up to date on city laws.
E-scooters are still relatively new, so many cities across the country are continually evaluating and developing new laws to help protect you, drivers and pedestrians. Be sure to keep on top of any changes.
“Scooters can be fun, just remember to protect yourself and be aware and mindful of others around you,” Dr. Tang explained.