Almost half of e-scooter riders who went to Austin, Texas hospitals received head injuries and more than one third had broken bones, mirroring results of a UCLA study on Santa Monica emergency rooms.

In a roughly two-month period last fall, 192 e-scooter riders, one pedestrian and one bicyclist sought medical care for injuries, about half of which were severe, according to the Austin Public Health Department study. Researchers from the department, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, reviewed emergency medical services incident reports, data from nine hospitals and conducted phone interviews with injured e-scooter riders to identify risk factors.

The interviews revealed that one-third of riders were injured during their first scooter ride and about 38 percent said they would use a scooter again. One-third of interviewees said they received no training on how to use the scooter before riding it.

The quantitative findings were similar to the UCLA study, which was released in January. The study conducted over a yearlong period at Ronald Reagan Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica found that one-third of injured riders suffered broken bones and 40 percent sustained head injuries.

The demographics of injured riders were also similar. In Austin, 55 percent of the injured riders were men and half were between 18 and 29. In Santa Monica, 58 percent were men, 11 percent were younger than 18 and 61 percent were between 18 and 40.

Four percent of Santa Monica riders were wearing helmets when they were injured, compared to less than one percent in Austin, where about 15 percent suffered traumatic brain injuries.

“Scooter companies should require their riders to wear helmets,” said Catherine Lerer, a Santa Monica personal injury attorney who has filed lawsuits on behalf of dozens of riders.  “At the very least, they need to increase and improve educational messages emphasizing helmet-wearing.”

Because the Austin study included interviews with riders, the data on how riders injured themselves is much richer.

More than half of the interviewed riders were injured in the street and one-third were injured on the sidewalk. Eight riders were injured on a path where motor vehicles were prohibited, four were injured in a parking lot and one was injured in a parking garage.

16 percent of the incidents with injured riders involved a motor vehicle that the rider either collided with or swerved, stopped or jumped off the scooter to avoid. 10 percent collided with a vehicle.

10 percent of the incidents involved a curb and seven percent involved an inanimate object like a light pole or manhole cover. Half of surveyed riders believed that potholes or cracks in the street contributed to their injuries.

37 percent of riders said excessive speed contributed to their injury, and 19 percent believed their scooter malfunctioned.

Lerer said she thinks e-scooter tires are unsuited for city streets and believes California should lower the scooter speed limit from 15 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour.

“The small, solid tires, which are not air-filled like bicycle tires, are very dangerous,” she said. “They have no give.”

While the study authors say it most likely underestimates the prevalence of e-scooter injuries, it calculated a rate of 20 individuals injured per 100,000 e-scooter trips taken during the two months of the study. In Santa Monica, 2,000 authorized scooters average about two trips each per day, totaling about 120,000 rides a month, according to the City of Santa Monica.

Based on the results of the study, the Austin Public Health Department recommends routinely surveilling e-scooter injuries and target educational campaigns at young adults that emphasize wearing a helmet and riding scooters at a safe speed.

Santa Monica has displayed advertising around the city informing riders about prohibited areas. A California law that allows adult scooter users to ride without a helmet went into effect Jan. 1.

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1 Comment

  1. That no-helmet-required law was actively supported by the scooter companies. Greed is their only bottom line.

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