New research suggests operating rental scooters like Bird and Lime on sidewalks carries a high risk of injury for both the rider and other pedestrians, even though most of the severe injuries and deaths with the scooters occur on roadways.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a new study this month, which examined over 100 e-scooter accidents that resulted in emergency room treatments, as part of an effort to evaluate the association between the risk of injury and location of the crash. According to the findings, both roadways and sidewalks pose separate, but dangerous, crash hazards.
Researchers from the IIHS interviewed 105 adults treated at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., between March and November 2019, who sustained an injury while riding an e-scooter. Interviewers collected data from participants on the location and circumstances which caused the e-scooter crash injuries to identify potential trends. Patient charts were abstracted to document their injuries and treatment along with participant responses.
E-scooter injuries were found to occur most frequently on sidewalks, accounting for 58% of study participants. Of these reports, many involved riders either crashing into pedestrians, or swerving away from pedestrians. Researchers claimed that while the injuries are of lower severity on sidewalks, sharing sidewalks with slower moving pedestrians could potentially lead to more conflicts.
For those recorded driving the e-scooter on roadways, researchers found they suffered greater injury severity, which was due to the increased travel speeds and the frequency of encountering potholes, pavement cracks, and other roadway deficiencies.
To compare safety risks among other popular ride sharing services, researchers reviewed general injury statistics reported among bike-sharing services, and found that e-scooter riders sustained more injuries per mile, and were twice as likely to be injured by roadway deficiencies.
Similar to bike-sharing services, scooter rentals like Bird, Lime and Spin are increasingly popular among city residents, allowing individuals to easily use an electric scooters for quick transportation through the use of an app. However, since scooter rental services became popular in major cities throughout the U.S. over the past two years, hundreds of scooter injury reports have surfaced, including a number of deaths nationwide.
The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) encourage users to never drive the scooters on uneven surfaces, due to their small tires and lightweight design making them prone to tipping or turning over. Quick and abrupt movements should be avoided to prevent possible collisions with pedestrians or vehicles, and the devices should never be operated under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Earlier this year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted a sharp increase in the amount of emergency room visits involving electric scooter injuries. Researchers discovered 45% of all emergency room scooter-related injuries involved head trauma due to the rider failing to wear a helmet.
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.
As a result of growing injury reports and concerns, several lawsuits have been filed against rental scooter companies, including an electric scooter class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court in October 2018, claiming the scooters are being put on the streets nationwide without adequate risk warnings, instructions or safety measures. The complaint names Bird, Lime, as well as the scooter manufacturers Segway and Xiaomi, as defendants.