- Researchers at UCLA have released the results of a year-long study that examines injuries associated with electric scooter use, concluding that such injuries are common and range in severity.
- The study retrospectively examined data from two Los Angeles-area emergency rooms from September 2017 to September 2018 and found 249 patients with e-scooter injuries.
- Of the patients, 91.6% were riding the scooter and the rest were hit by one, tripped over one or tried lifting/carrying one not in use.
- The most common injury causes were falls (80%), followed by colliding with an object (11%) and being hit by a moving vehicle or object (8.8%).
- The most common types of injuries were head injuries (40.2%), broken bones (31.7%) and sprains/cuts/scrapes (27.7%).
- Most of the patients were discharged from the emergency department, however 15 patients were admitted to the hospital, and two people ended up in intensive care with bleeding around the brain.
- Hospital staff documented 10 patients (4.4%) as having worn a helmet and 12 patients (4.8%) as having blood alcohol levels greater than 0.05%.
The researchers intend for this study to provide insight that can help policy makers better understand the impact that scooters have on public health. The study pointed out that while most municipalities prohibit riding scooters on the sidewalk and require helmet use, no universal policies exist and enforcement varies widely.
Having additional information about injuries could inform new or updated regulations, particularly around helmet use and inebriated riding. And with 56.6% of the emergency room visits happening between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., leaders might want to look into greater rule enforcement during the afternoon and evening hours.
The study provided an interesting comparison between the buzz about scooters now and that of Segways in 2001. It said the early Segways "were few in number, expensive to use, restricted to tourist locations, and associated with a specific set of injuries." However modern e-scooters number in the thousands per market and are easily accessible, plus they are cheaper to ride. Those characteristics make scooter use more prevalent than Segways and therefore they present a greater safety challenge.
This study does come with some limitations. It self-reports only using retrospective data from emergency room physicians and not in-person researcher documentation, so observations and variables are limited. Researchers concluded that they likely underestimated the number of scooter-related injuries for a variety of reasons, including that not all of the medical records were clear about whether a scooter was involved.
Despite the limitations, this study is one of the first released to quantify injuries related to scooter use. E-scooter use is still an emerging trend so the number of injuries could grow as more people use the devices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently partnered with Austin health and transportation departments to launch its first epidemiological study on health risk associated with scooters.