- Prominent cities like Washington, D.C., Dallas, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City have been in the news this month for scooter-related deaths and injuries.
- Many of these electric scooter companies stress they have safety tutorials available, but not all scooter rental companies require users to watch the videos before riding.
- Electric scooter companies like Lime, Bird and Skip maintain that their machines are safe even though most riders do not have to wear helmets.
Many city dwellers have seen them, and perhaps even downloaded an app to rent one: there’s no doubt that electric scooters are taking major U.S. cities by storm. More than the 70 U.S. cities with electric scooter fleets, however, are scrambling to deal with injuries, hit-and-runs and even deaths.
Electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird often avoid legal liability for users’ injuries through terms of service agreements. Lime’s user agreement has riders sign off that they understand that “the products are machines that may malfunction, even if the products are properly maintained, and that such malfunction may cause injury,” according to CNN.
“You have a public that hasn’t been aware of the inherent dangers in what they see as a fun recreational vehicle,” Dr. Sam Torbati of the emergency department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said according to CNN. “They’re no safer than any other motorized vehicles, and in some ways, are more dangerous than a bicycle.”
Here’s how four major cities are dealing with the scooting trend:
Twenty-year-old Carlos Sanchez-Martin of Silver Spring, Maryland, died after he collided with an SUV in northwest Washington, D.C., while riding his Lime scooter on Sept. 21, reported WaPo. A witness said Sanchez-Martin was dragged more than 20 yards by the SUV and was trapped beneath it when first responders came to his aid.
Sanchez-Martin’s death was the District’s first “shared scooter” death since scooters started operating in the area in the spring, D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Terry Owens told WaPo.
Washington, D.C., requires electric scooter service users to be over 16 and does not mandate wearing helmets. Riders can scoot on the sidewalk in some parts of the district, according to WUSA9.
Twenty-four-year-old Jacoby Stoneking died while riding an electric scooter in Dallas on Sept. 1. He injured himself and was able to contact a friend to say he had hurt his foot, but Stoneking was found unresponsive by his badly damaged scooter minutes later, according to CBSDFW. He later died. Stoneking’s family wondered if a car had been involved in the accident.
Lime and Bird came to Dallas, where users 18 and up can ride on sidewalks or highways, in July, reported the Dallas Business Journal.
Los Angeles handed out its first misdemeanor conviction for “scooting under the influence,” city officials said Wednesday according to the Los Angeles Times.
Twenty-eight-year-old Nicholas Kauffroath was convicted for hitting a pedestrian while his blood-alcohol level was 0.279, which is triple the legal limit, according to the LA Times.
He pleaded no contest to “one count of operating a motorized scooter while under the influence, and one of hit-and-run,” reported the LA Times. Kauffroath received three years’ probation plus a $550 fine, and he will also be required to go through a three-month DUI program.
The Los Angeles Police Department had to add a code so that law enforcement can track scooter accidents in September, reported the LA Times.
Salt Lake City
Reliable statistics about injuries and electric scooters will not be available for months at least as many cities started permitting the vehicles in 2018, but doctors at a Salt Lake City hospital reported “a 161 percent increase in the number of visits involving scooters after comparing its latest statistics with the same three-month period a year earlier,” reported the WaPo.
Scooter accident victims jumped from eight between June and September 2017 to 21 during the same time period in 2018, emergency room doctors at University of Utah Health said according to WaPo.
“Most of the patients with these injuries specifically reported that they were riding an e-scooter or a rental scooter,” University of Utah Health physician Troy Madsen said according to WaPo. “Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the injuries this year happened between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, which would correspond with the increasing popularity and availability of the e-scooters.”
Many of the patients injured themselves while trying to catch themselves after a fall, Madsen said according to WaPo. Several admitted they were under the influence and not wearing helmets. (RELATED: Flu Season Is Coming. The CDC Is Warning About What Happened Last Year)
“E-scooters are a new mode of transportation and that’s one reason why safety is our top priority at Bird,” the scooter company said in a response to the hospital’s statistics according to WaPo. “We understand the temptation to focus on any increase in incidents, but it’s wrong to compare a period when there were no e-scooters to today when they are being used by thousands of riders in dozens of U.S. cities.”
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