A new report from the Washington Post found that emergency rooms have seen a spike in incidents involving electric scooters. One particular hospital in Salt Lake City reported a 161 percent increase in scooter injuries—from eight injuries over a four-month time span in 2017 to 21 in that same time period this year.
“Most of the patients with these injuries specifically reported that they were riding an e-scooter or a rental scooter,” Troy Madsen, a doctor at the University of Utah Health’s Emergency Department, told the Washington Post. “Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the injuries this year happened between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, which would correspond with the increasing popularity and availability of the e-scooters.”
Madsen also reportedly pointed out that the individuals who came into the emergency department with injuries were between 20 and 50 years old and “often” hurt themselves trying to stop a fall. The Washington Post story included other injury-related details provided by hospitals:
“The hospital reported that nearly half of this year’s injuries were fractures and dislocations of ankles, wrists, elbows and shoulders, as well as several cases of sprains and lacerations. Emergency physicians also treated several head injuries, and multiple patients told doctors they were intoxicated and not wearing a helmet when they were injured.”
Aside from the reported injuries at the emergency room in Salt Lake City, emergency physicians in seven other cities told the Washington Post they were getting more patients who had been involved in electric scooter accidents, citing “severe” injuries like head traumas “that were sustained from scooters malfunctioning or flipping over on uneven surfaces as well as riders being hit by cars or colliding with pedestrians,” the Post reported.
In an earlier story, the Post reported that a San Francisco ER doctor was “seeing as many as 10 severe injuries a week” related to scooters, while Santa Monica fire fighters reportedly “responded to 34 serious accidents involving the devices this summer.”
For the uninitiated, a number of dockless electric scooter companies have landed millions of dollars in venture capital to provide passersby the option to grab one and go. The scooters can be paid for by the minute and are powered by an app. But while early adopters might have exalted these scooters, others have been quick to point out that they are “so damn dangerous.” Jalopnik writer Bradley Brownell and a friend tried out Bird—the most popular scooter service, valued at $2 billion. Brownell said his friend’s brakes were faulty.
“It was a great plan, and it would have worked if the scooters had worked. The problems started from the very first block, as Rick’s Bird did not have strong enough brakes to stop the thing down one of the city’s numerous hills. He managed to Flintstone-brake the scooter a few blocks until we got to Mikey’s apartment, where he quickly traded out for another Bird.”
Earlier this month, 24-year-old Jacoby Stoneking died in an accident involving a Lime scooter. “An electric scooter is pretty much a moped, just a little slower,” Sam Torbati, medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. “People seem to feel safe since it looks like a recreational tool, but it comes with potential for serious injury.”
As Torbati noted, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill scooters, and they’re certainly not akin to riding a bike. But it’s as simple as downloading an app and scanning a QR code to grab one and go—it’s no wonder some people are headed to the ER.
Update September 25, 12:25pm ET: A Bird spokesperson stated that because electric scooters are new, “safety is our top priority.” They included a stat from the CDC—that 129,000 pedestrians are treated in emergency rooms for car crash-related injuries in the U.S. every year—stating that “the true danger on our roads is cars.” They added:
“Bird is committed to partnering with all cities to ensure that the community, and its visitors, safely embrace our affordable, environmentally friendly transportation option. We strive to improve and enhance the well-being of our riders and communities through concrete action, including: restricting the maximum speed of the vehicles, requiring riders to upload a driver’s license and confirm they are 18 or older, providing an in-app tutorial on how to ride a Bird and how to park it, and posting clear safety instructions on each Bird. To date, we have distributed more than 50,000 free helmets to riders. Additionally, Bird recently formed the Global Safety Advisory Board, which will create, advise, and implement global programs, campaigns, and products to improve the safety of those riding Birds and other e-scooters.”