Shared electric scooters are extremely popular in the US. An estimated 38.5 million trips were taken in the country in 2018. The city of Austin studied injuries related to the use of electric scooters from September to November last year, according to the report published by Austin Public Health and Transportation departments. This was the first report about scooter safety overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study identified a total of 271 scooter-related injuries during the period. Of those who were injured during their scooter rides, almost half received head injuries and fifteen per cent experienced traumatic brain injuries. These head injuries could potentially be prevented by wearing a helmet, but the rate of helmet usage is unfortunately low: only one out of 190. The study concluded that these injuries could potentially have been prevented if helmets were used during the rides.
Alcohol, distraction and inexperience are found as the three major causes behind the injuries. A third of respondents reported consumption of alcohol before their injuries, and a third of injuries happened on the first electric scooter ride. Phone use also was also reported at the point injuries occurred.
The introduction of electric scooters, unfortunately, puts more vulnerable road users on the streets. How the users can be protected and whose responsibility it is to protect them becomes the big questions. The CDC’s investigation shows that helmets could be a solution to the severe injuries related to scooter rides; however, the responsibility to “bring a helmet and wear it” lands on the users today. To my knowledge, no company offers helmets to their users even though many of them do recommend a helmet during the ride.
Similar concerns and questions were raised in the context of bike sharing . Providing helmets has its own risks: hygiene, cost and liability issues were the barriers hindering companies to provide helmets, identified by Washington’s Capital Bikeshare program in 2014; however, as the years have passed and shared vehicles have gone dockless, the helmet dilemma is still not resolved today.
Written by Anne Faxér, RISE Viktoria.
2. 2019-05-02. Austin study provides insights about scooter related injuries.
3. 2017-08-29. Bike share and helmets: Let’s be realistic.
4. 2014-05-15. Why don’t bike share programs provide helmets?