Although COVID-19 has caused staggering financial impact on electric scooter ride sharing services, new research suggests the number of serious injuries linked to scooters has continued to skyrocket over the past year, resulting in tens of thousands of emergency room visits.
According to a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on August 31, emergency room visits associated with electronic scooters injuries increased six-fold last year, when compared to 2014, when the services became popular nationwide.
Similar to bike-sharing services, short-term scooter rentals are increasingly popular among city residents, allowing individuals to easily use electric scooters for quick transportation through the use of an app. However, since scooter ride services have become popular in almost every major city in the U.S. over the last four years, concerns have grown about the injury risk posed by electronic scooter accidents.
A team of researchers from Emory University School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic reviewed data from the 2019 United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to analyze trends associated with the growing popularity of electric scooters, and their associated injuries.
According to the data, an estimated 70,644 e-scooter related injuries were treated at emergency departments from 2014 to 2019, with rapidly increasing numbers logged each year.
Approximately 4,881 e-scooter injuries were recorded in 2014. That number increased to 8,269 in 2017, 15,522 in 2018, and then nearly doubled to 29,628 in 2019. When comparing the rates of injury per population, researchers reported a rate of less than two per 100,000 people in 2014, which increased to nine per 100,000 in 2019.
Among the injuries recorded, head trauma was most frequent, accounting for more than 27%. Half of those injuries resulted in a traumatic brain injury diagnosis such as a head injury with a concomitant diagnosis of a concussion, internal organ injury, fracture, anoxia, or hemorrhage.
Other common e-scooter injuries involved fractures or moderate to severe sprains to the wrists or forearms, usually from riders attempting to catch themselves after falling off of the scooters. Researchers also found soft tissue injuries to various parts of the body were either solely reported or accompanied more severe injuries.
Concerns over e-scooters have continued to rise as injuries increase across cities nationwide, with many critics claiming the scooters are not as safe as bicycles due to their instability, shorter wheelbases and smaller wheels. Along with roadway imperfections, and other possible hazards, safety officials claim riders are not properly equipped with the right safety gear to protect them.
U.S. safety officials have released several warnings over the last few years encouraging riders of the importance for protective equipment such as helmets and hand or wrist guards to be worn, and to avoid riskier maneuvers or traveling at high speeds on the devices.
Several e-scooter fatalities have been reported in recent years, including a Washington, DC, resident who was dragged more than a dozen yards by an SUV that struck and pinned him and the Lime electric scooter he was riding in 2018. The death of a 24-year old Dallas resident occurred around the same time after he fell off of a scooter on his way home from work.
While use of e-scooter ride sharing services such as Bird and Lime are significantly down this year due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, riders should be cautious when beginning to travel on e-scooters again and always wear protective gear, experts advise.