More and more electric scooters are becoming available in cities across the country.
Motorized scooters are becoming more popular in major cities across the United States.
You can pick them up spontaneously on the street and drop them off wherever you like. They’re battery-powered with no emissions and are a cost-effective means of transportation.
But these scooters don’t come with their own helmet, and some people may be going for a ride in a city or area they’re unfamiliar with.
This new transportation fad comes with a potential health and financial risk, as more people are getting injured after going for a ride.
New research has shown that the number of face and head injuries from riding electric scooters has tripled over the past decade, according to a new study by Rutgers University.
This study, which was published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, analyzed data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The system collects data from over 100 hospitals and extrapolates it to provide national estimates regarding product-related injuries occurring in the United States.
Between 2008 and 2017, there were almost 1,000 recorded events for head and facial injuries secondary to motorized scooters. This extrapolates to approximately 32,000 emergency department visits nationwide.
This number has tripled in the past 10 years. In 2008, it was estimated that there were 2,325 injuries. However, this number has increased to an estimated 6,947 in 2017.
“They are creating unsafe conditions on not only roads where they are presently banned, but on sidewalks where pedestrians are at major risk for collisions and serious facial and extremity injuries,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Most of those injured were between the ages of 19 and 65, with almost one-third of them being children between 6 and 12 years old.
“Children use motorized scooters marketed as toys, but in reality, certain models can reach speeds of almost 30 miles per hour,” said the study’s co-author Dr. Amishav Bresler, a third-year resident in the department of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in a released statement.
The most frequent injuries were closed head injuries, concussions, and lacerations.
The most commonly broken bones were the skull and nose, each at 27 percent of all cases. This was followed by neck and facial fractures.
“This study predicts an increase in the incidence of craniofacial injuries, including closed head injuries, lacerations, and a variety of fractures including those of the skull, face, and cervical spine [neck],” said Dr. Nicole Berwald, physician and emergency chairwoman at Staten Island University Hospital, to Healthline.
Although many of these injuries may have been prevented using helmets, an overwhelming majority of people completing the study stated they weren’t wearing one.
“The problem is that the majority of people who ride them do not wear helmets or adequate body gear to shoulder against road rash, facial fractures, extremity fractures as well as blunt chest and abdominal trauma,” Glatter said.
Some populations are especially vulnerable to injury, such as children and the elderly. With the appeal of the scooters looking like a toy, many children not only pose a risk to themselves but to other pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. Careening down the sidewalk at a top speed of 30 miles per hour means other pedestrians may have to duck for cover.
The elderly, especially those who are on blood thinners, can pose severe traumatic injury risks to themselves if they take a spin on a scooter. If they crash, especially without a helmet, they may experience life-threatening internal bleeding in their head and body.
Currently, there’s no national legislation about wearing a helmet while on a scooter, and each state and region have different laws. In Washington D.C., these scooters are defined as “personal mobility devices,” and they’re not subjected to the helmet or rigorous inspection laws. In California, anyone under the age of 18 must wear protective headgear while riding a scooter.
“Long-term legislation and standardizing safety, like the government did for bicycle safety, is the most important,” Bresler told Healthline. “In the short-term, people need to take steps into their own hands, like wearing a helmet, elbow pads, and kneepads, just like you would do as if you are riding a skateboard or bicycle.”
While these numbers can be astonishing, questions arise in how often these scooters are used in comparison to the number of actual injuries.
“This information would provide a better understanding of the risk to the users and the stress to the healthcare system,” Berwald added.
However, recent estimates report that in 2018, there were 38.5 million trips taken by shared scooters, according to the National Association of City Transportation.
Bresler told Healthline that he believes these scooters have become more popular because they’re seen for “their affordability and are a ‘green’ alternative that is lighter and faster.” But the associated risk of driving them hasn’t changed.
Despite the disparity between the number of people injured and the total number of rides taken, injuries can be catastrophic.
Whether using these convenient scooters for a ride down the street, for fun and leisure, or to get to and from work quickly, there’s a significant risk with their use. By maintaining traffic laws, driving at low speeds, and most importantly, wearing a helmet, life-threatening head injuries can be prevented.
Rajiv Bahl, MD, MBA, MS, is an emergency medicine physician and health writer. Learn more about him at his website.