The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the City of Austin studied the safety of electric rental scooters, such as Bird and Lime, over a three-month period. Car and Driver report that the study is the first of its kind, and “strongly implies that dockless electric scooters you can rent via phone app have some edges to iron out.”
Austin residents and visitors rode rental scooters — such as Bird, Lime, etc. — a total of 936,110 times, for 182,333 hours, reported Car and Driver. The study, the first of its kind, revealed the type of injuries that were sustained in scooter accidents, as well as the factors that contributed to the injuries.
192 Emergency Room Visits in Three Months
The study looked at ER and hospital visits between September 5, 2018 and November 30, 2018. During the same period, scooter users rode a combined 182,333 hours in over 900,000 trips. Researchers found 192 people visited the hospital for injuries related to scooter accidents, or 14 injuries per every 100,000 scooter rides.
48% of Accidents Resulted in Head Injury, 35% in Bone Fractures
Researchers conducted interviews with 125 of the 192 injured people. Head injuries were the most commonly reported injuries during this study. Of the people whose scooter rides ended in a head injury, 15% sustained a traumatic brain injury. It is rare that e-scooter riders use helmets— 99% of this study’s subjects reported that they were not wearing a helmet at the time of their accident.
Fractures are also common. Of the 35% of riders who visited the hospital for bone fractures, 19% had multiple fractures. The bone fracture statistics did not include fractures in the fingers, toes, or nose.
Eight percent of patients were in the hospital for 48 hours or more. One percent of all injury victims had damage to their organs.
Speed and Road Conditions Were Major Factors
Half of all scooter accidents in were caused by road/sidewalk conditions such as the presence of potholes or uneven pavement, reported interviewees. “Excessive scooter speed” was the next-highest reported cause of scooter accidents, and was identified as a factor in 37% of incidents. On-road or roadside objects heavily contributed to injury as well. Curbs were named in 10% of accident reports, and other objects (“such as a light pole or manhole cover”) played a role in 7% of injuries. The involvement of automobiles was equivalent to curbs as accident contributors, with 10% of scooter accidents involving cars.
In addition to speed and a lack of helmet use, an absence of proper training appeared to be another scooter-related safety risk. One-third of injury victims were sent to the emergency room following their very first ride on the electric vehicles, and 60% of all injured riders said that any training they received was through the rental app.
As fun and convenient as it is to rent an electric scooter, this study demonstrates that the craze has a long way to go before scooting is a truly safe mode of transportation.
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