Dockless, electric scooters are popping up across the country. Electric scooter sharing offers a convenient, low-cost, means of transportation. Riders simply download the app for a scooter company that operates in their city, use the app to locate and activate a nearby scooter, and park it anywhere when they are done. The concept is comparable to bike sharing.
Lime-S scooters are available in more than 60 US cities, and, in April 2018, Bird Rides, Inc, announced more than 1 million completed rides. Concern for scooter rider, pedestrian, and motorist safety is growing as electric scooter sharing proliferates as a popular means of transportation.
Dr. Tarak Trivedi and researchers from UCLA reviewed injuries affiliated with electric scooter use to observe rider practices and injury characteristics. The study investigated the records of 249 patients injured by scooters seen over one year in emergency departments in Southern California. Ninety two percent (228) were injured while riding a scooter. As the figure shows, the most common injuries were head trauma, bone fractures, and soft tissue damage like cuts, sprains, and bruises. Only 4% of the injured riders were wearing a helmet.
Scooter rental companies like JUMP require riders to be 18 years or older with a valid driver’s license. These companies also urge several safety recommendations, including wearing a helmet. The company Bird encourages riders to wear a helmet by offering free helmets to active riders. However, as this study points out, no uniform set of policies at the state or city level regarding electric scooters exists.
Atlanta recently passed a law confining scooter riders to the streets, bike lanes, and shared-use paths. Helmet use, however, is only recommended, not required. California requires riders to possess a California driver’s license or instruction permit and wear a helmet if they’re under 18 years of age. Riding on sidewalks is prohibited. Trivedi and colleagues note that it is “unclear” how California’s policy change will affect rider practices and injury patterns.
Image from Niall McCarthy, Statista