The electric revolution in micromobility has been growing by leaps and bounds, and the number of electric bikes, electric scooters, and other e-transport products on the roads and bike paths seems to be multiplying, which is a good thing in the push to decarbonize transport, but like any innovation, it has a dark side as well. No, I’m not referring to battery fires, which will probably continue to be an issue as long as there are shoddy chargers and batteries on the market, not to mention unsafe charging and storage practices, but rather the risks of injuries, especially for younger riders.
A recent report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Micromobility Products-Related Deaths, Injuries, and Hazard Patterns, highlights the recent increase in the number of injuries that have resulted in visits to the emergency room over the last five years or so (data from 2017-2022 was used in the report). And while part of that may be due to the simple fact that there are a lot more micromobility options in use now than there were just a few years ago, and so an increase in the number of injuries logically follows, the findings seem to indicate that a significant increase in the percentage of injuries that could potentially be avoided. Wearing a helmet, choosing safer places to ride, avoiding distractions while riding, and increasing visibility on the road may all help prevent injuries, of which fractures, contusions, and abrasions were the most common injuries.
According to the CPSC, “injuries associated with all micromobility devices increased nearly 21% in 2022 from 2021,” and all micromobility-related injuries have increased by an average or 23% per year. Electric scooter injuries increased by 22% from 2021 to 2022, and almost half of the e-bike injuries from 2017-2022 happened in 2022, while hoverboard injuries decreased by about a quarter over the same time period. “… the injuries associated with e-scooters and e-bikes occurred most frequently on streets or highways (41% and 55%, respectively); whereas the hoverboard-related injuries occurred most frequently at home (37%).” And the sex of the riders was definitely a factor, as the report found that males accounted for 65% of electric scooter injuries and 75% of e-bike injuries, while females accounted for 55% of hoverboard-related injuries. The full report is available from CPSC (PDF).
A separate study found a 71% increase in injuries from electric scooters in teens and children aged 18 and younger from 2020 to 2021, with “limited use of helmets resulting in the head as the most injured body part.” The study analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, and the results were presented at the National Conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics this year.
“Over the 2-year study period, U.S. emergency departments reported 13,557 injuries related to e-scooters within the pediatric population. The number of injuries increased 71%, from 5,012 in 2020 compared with 8,545 in 2021. Of these patients, a majority were white males, ages 16 to 18, with most injuries reported in the spring and summer. The most common primary diagnosis was fracture, and the most injured body part was the head. Among cases in which helmet use was reported, only 32% reported wearing a helmet at the time of injury. Among patients with head injuries, nearly 67% were not wearing a helmet at the time of injury. Additionally, nearly 15% of all cases mentioned motor vehicle involvement, and almost 10% of cases mentioned hitting obstacles such as uneven ground or potholes.”
Although not much can be done to ‘make’ the riders of electric scooters and e-bikes behave more safely and make better decisions, the number of micromobility-related injuries could be reduced by promoting (and maybe enforcing) the wearing of helmets, teaching young riders safe riding habits before letting them ride alone, choosing a scooter meant for younger riders rather than adult riders, the development of safer infrastructure such as protected bike lanes, and educating automobile drivers on the importance of watching for riders on and near roads as well as keeping an appropriate distance away from scooters and bicycles on roads.
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