The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a program to study injuries caused by electric scooters. Dockless, electronic scooter companies have invaded cities across the country hoping to further revolutionize the transport in America. According to a report by CNBC, companies such as Lime and Bird now operate in over 100 cities in the country. Despite their rapid expansion, there is little data on the safety of providing electric scooters to anyone over the age of 18. Riders of electronic scooters are known to drive on sidewalks, streets, or any other surface available and many of their scooters can reach speeds up to 15 mph.
Federal agencies appear to have finally woken up to the potential threat to public safety, which one emergency room doctor described as a “disruptive technology” to CNBC. The new study will be limited to the city of Austin and the CDC says it plans to “identify the risk factors for those who get injured, how severe their injuries are and why they’re getting hurt.” While still in the preliminary stages, data provided by Austin-area emergency rooms has already provided some answers. According to the CDC, 98 percent of emergency room visitors with injuries caused by an electronic scooter were not wearing their helmet. Further, a little more than half of the injured were under the influence of alcohol or another drug. The majority of electronic scooter injuries were caused by falls. Perhaps surprisingly, injuries caused by electronic scooters do not increase during the nighttime hours.
According to Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, which has been tracking injuries since electronic scooters began operating in May 2018, injuries are relatively common. Dr. Christopher Ziebell, emergency department medical director at the hospital, said, “We have 11 doctor shifts a day and most of the doctors tell me it’s hard to go a whole shift without seeing at least one scooter injury.” One example is Pamela Tick who says she was going 10 to 15 miles per hour when she hit a “deep pothole” and smacked into the concrete. Tick told CNBC that she was riding without a helmet on a Jump electronic scooter – the brand owned by ride-sharing company Uber.
Scooter companies say they are supportive of the CDC’s research efforts and hope to collaborate with the federal agency on making the mode of transportation as safe as possible. A Lime spokesperson said, “[The company] is taking the issue seriously. We’re doing all that we can to work with cities, education and technology to address these accidents and it’s encouraging the medical community is as well.” The CDC is prepared to release its full findings this spring although the agency has already revealed that less than one percent of riders wear helmets. Given the limited information released by the CDC, it appears both the companies and customers could do more to make electronic scooters safer.
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