New research highlights the potential injury risks associated with ride-sharing scooter services, such as Bird and Lime, finding that the most common e-scooter injuries reported involve bone fractures and contusions to upper extremities.
In a study presented this week at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine urged electric scooter riders to wear the proper protective equipment, after a review of injury data found that most emergency room visits involved wrist fractures and contusions to the head. The findings are currently considered preliminary, until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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 ride services have become popular in almost every major city in the U.S. over the last two years, concerns have grown about the injury risk posed by electronic scooter accidents.
Researchers indicated the electric scooters carry a unique risk different from many other ride-sharing services. They warn that the narrow platform and shorter wheel base of the scooters, combined with the ability to reach 15-20 miles per hour quickly, is a recipe for disaster, especially for those who lack the required coordination to maneuver the device.
The study involved a review of 36 records of patients who visited the emergency room in Indianapolis after an electric scooter accident, and found 19 of the cases were diagnosed with an injury by means of an X-ray.
Of the injuries, fractures or moderate to severe sprains to the wrists or forearms were most common, usually from riders attempting to catch themselves after falling off of the scooters. Additional reports involved soft tissue injuries on different parts of the body including the head, face and ankle.
The study warns 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.
Researchers suggested law enforcement agencies enforce helmet use for riders, and also impose speed limits on e-scooters to mitigate the severity of crashes.
Another study published earlier this year by 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.
Second to head trauma, researchers found 27% of injuries related to upper extremity fractures followed by 12% experiencing lower extremity fractures. Approximately 29% of the injured riders self-reported being a first time rider. According to the study, approximately 14.3 injuries requiring emergency room treatment occurred every 100,000 trips on e-scooters.
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.