E-scooters and the ER: Exploring the dangers of electric scooters

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Those rentable electric scooters that are popping up across America look fun, convenient and inexpensive at $1 a minute and less after that. But as the scooters' popularity rises, so do rider visits to the emergency room.

At least seven people in the U.S. have been killed on e-scooters, and thousands more have been hurt. With that information, emergency personnel are sending out an alarm.

Last summer, Tim Belda crashed his e-scooter to avoid hitting his buddy.

"My foot just took all of the pressure and broke my leg, broke my ankle and broke part of my foot," Belda said.

After two surgeries and physical therapy, Belda does yoga to stretch injured ligaments and tendons.

Trauma Dr. Vishal Bansal sees cases like Belda's several times a week at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego.

"The vast majority of these scooter injuries are orthopedic or brain injury," Bansal said. "The brain injury can be anything from a mild concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury where they're in the hospital or ICU for weeks and weeks and weeks."

And riders aren't the only ones getting hurt.

"He didn't know the scooter was coming – you can't hear them – and it hit him and he fell and broke his arm and hit his head and ended up with significant injuries," Scripps Mercy Hospital trauma nurse team leader Ashley DeLaHunt said.

Bansal says most of the injured are male, riding at night without helmets, and are intoxicated. He's dismayed the California Legislature just scrapped a helmet law, ignoring 30 years of injury prevention research.

"We've taken all that data, all that knowledge, all the hours and hours of taking care of these patients and throw them away," Bansal said.

He and Belda are concerned riders don't take electric scooters seriously enough.

"It looks like a toy, [but] it's really not a toy," Belda said. "You know, it's a motorized vehicle and should be treated as such."

The first study on serious scooter injuries in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Network Open showed 40 percent were head trauma and 32 percent were bone fractures.

Now, Scripps Mercy Hospital is joining UC San Diego, UCLA, the University of Texas and other institutions to study patterns and demographics of e-scooter accidents.

They hope to be published in three to six months. The two largest e-scooter companies, Lime and Bird, are trying to boost safety by offering free helmets you can order.

RESEARCH SUMMARY
911 ON SCOOTER DANGER
REPORT #2637

BACKGROUND: Electric scooters are quiet, quick, environmentally friendly, and overall safer than previous gas models. Due to the slow speeds in comparison to other motorized vehicles, these electric products are not seen as needing insurance to drive them and therefore do not require you to have a license. This, however, is one of the main issues that e scooters have had when it comes to safety. The devices are not kid's toys, regardless of its ordinary two-wheeled kick scooter look that it has been given and they are in fact targeted to an audience aged 20-30 looking for a quick and cheap way to get around. E scooter companies operate in 65 different cities and Forbes reports that they will revolutionize public transport around the world. The design of the scooter has been around for many years; the innovative factor in this case is that they are now entering the rental business. You can download an app on your phone for one of the rental companies - Bird, Lime, Skip, Scoot, or Spin - and use the map feature to find the closest scooter. You register with your credit card and scan the scooter barcode to unlock it, head to your destination, and park the scooter. Once you are at your destination, you end the ride on your app and pay. (Source: https://www.myproscooter.com/history-of-the-motorized-scooter/ and https://www.vox.com/2018/8/27/17676670/electric-scooter-rental-bird-lime-skip-spin-cities)

RULES AND LAWS: Riders must be 18 or older, have a driver's license (recommended), wear a helmet (required by law), beware of weather, park scooter in a public space where it doesn't block traffic, and ride only in metropolitan areas. Riders must not carry any item impeding the safe operation of an e scooter, drink and scoot, carry a second person, use the scooter for racing or stunts, ride on unpaved roads, through water or any location that is prohibited/illegal, weigh more than 200 pounds (including baggage), or park on a public space where it blocks traffic. In order to prevent accidents related to speeding, some governments and college campuses have either placed speed limits or banned electric scooters and bikes completely. (Source: https://qz.com/1257997/electric-scooters-are-flooding-california-and-theyll-be-on-your-sidewalks-soon/)

STUDYING E SCOOTER INJURIES: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is working in collaboration with the Austin Public Health Department to investigate the reported increase in e scooter related injuries to understand how to prevent these injuries along with issuing recommendations for e scooter users. The investigation began because of a series of scooter mania incidents that led to a new category of injuries in emergency rooms; broken noses, wrists, shoulders, as well as facial lesions and fractures. "This is a disease outbreak investigation — the disease in this case being injuries associated with dock less electric scooters," said Jeff Taylor, an Austin health official who is overseeing the study. Scooter companies support the study as safety is a top priority. The report will outline recommendations such as the use of helmets (which some of the companies provide for free) and people wearing heels should switch to flats when riding. (Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2019/03/15/cdc-is-studying-e-scooter-injuries/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4e1f92f054ed)