Electric scooters have become all the rage in major cities across the country to combat high traffic rates and help ease carbon emissions. Whether people are purchasing them individually, or participating in scooter-share services, riders are getting into accidents more and more frequently. According to the Associated Press, roughly 11 electric scooter deaths have occurred in the country since 2018. However, despite the known risks, scooter-riders keep the demand up for the two-wheeled electric vehicles, taking approximately 39 million trips on rentable scooters from companies like Lime and Bird in 2018 alone.
So, with the high risk and climbing occurrence of accidents, what is the appeal of these scooters? Riders enjoy the experience of the ride, which is similar to that of skateboarding but can accelerate up to 15 miles per hour. Smartphone apps enable easy and cheap access, costing around a dollar to unlock and a few cents per minute to ride. In most cities, they can be dropped off literally anywhere, and the corresponding app keeps track of their locations. Beating traffic during rush hours or closures helps keep the appeal up, not to mention helping people achieve their exercise goals conveniently and quickly.
Despite being lauded by enthusiasts, pedestrians and car and truck drivers alike view the scooters as dangerous nuisances. Complaints range from riders being irresponsible in traffic, and cities complain that some of the scooter companies dropped scooters off onto sidewalks without permission or advanced notice. States are beginning to implement regulatory measures to manage the number of scooters on the road and to help prevent accidents from happening.
Depending upon the place, such as in New York state and across the United Kingdom, scooters are illegal to use on public roads and sidewalks. In Paris, the allowed number of scooter drivers on the road was capped, as was the speed limit in areas with large amounts of foot traffic, at 5 miles per hour. Places with electric scooters are also implementing hefty fines for drivers who ride the scooters on sidewalks. City officials hope that the more strict the regulations and penalties are, the more accidents and fatalities will be prevented.
Although we know that riding a scooter has an increased risk of injury associated with it, public health officials are still collecting specific data that speaks to more exact estimations of injuries or fatalities from scooters. In Austin, Texas, for example, CDC officials claimed there were more than 190 injuries from riding scooters in just three months in 2018. In Santa Monica, California, an emergency room estimated almost 250 scooter injuries, a large percentage of which were from head injuries suffered because the drivers weren’t wearing helmets.
Many of the popular scooter-sharing companies recommend that all riders wear helmets for their safety, handing out free helmets in most of their active locations. However, Bird fought to strike down a 2018 proposal in California that would mandate helmets for all scooter riders. Bird and Lime both report that most riders are hesitant to wear helmets because riders either want the freedom to spontaneously decide to ride a scooter without having to plan on doing, or fear the helmets that these companies hand out because of the possibility of lice. Most scooter companies require riders to be 18 and up, but riders are finding ways to get around the age restriction and ride anyway, which makes the road unsafe for them and the vehicles that share the road with them.
Scooter companies, however, are making efforts to make riding scooters a safer experience. Bird noticed the uptick in accidents after midnight due to driving under the influence, so the company took steps to shut down operations daily after midnight. The company is also implementing a reinforced, additional set of brakes and making advances in the models that would prevent electrical failures that could lead to accidents. However, scooters are still thought to have a positive influence in most cities; they reduce pollution emissions and lower the likelihood of car accidents by taking drivers out of cars, which have very high statistics of accident-related injuries and deaths. Officials at scooter companies fight against accusations of higher accident rates by arguing that cities need to reinforce their infrastructures to be more inclusive, mindful, and accessible to bikers, those who ride scooters, and pedestrians alike.
If you choose to get on a scooter, be aware that wearing a helmet helps to protect your skull and brain against traumatic injuries, and that riding a scooter brings with it an increased risk of getting injured in an accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in a scooter accident, working with a personal injury lawyer will help you get the compensation you deserve. The experienced lawyers at Zaner Harden Law can assist you in building a case and getting you the support you need.