Sharable electrical scooters are the new craze in U.S. cities. They are cool, fast, and easy to pick up on the street. They are also landing increasing numbers of riders in emergency rooms. Now Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the rapid rise in sharable electric scooter injuries.
The CDC’s decision to probe the shareable electric scooter industry follows a request from the Public Health and Transportation departments in Austin, Texas, CNBC reports.
The news channel spoke to Jeff Taylor, manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health. Taylor wants to identify the “risk factors” for people injured in scooter accidents and to find out why they are getting hurt. He’s worried the rise in injuries experienced in Texas’s capital is the tip of the iceberg.
Taylor is working with three CDC epidemiologists to look more closely at severe injuries that occurred in Austin from September to November 2018. The CDC study is the first of its kind in the United States.
Shareable or dockless electric scooters appeared on the streets of many major U.S. cities in the last few years, including in Baltimore. However, a spate of accidents in 2017 and 2018 raise questions about their safety. Our Maryland injury lawyers are alarmed by the surge in injuries suffered by scooter users.
More and more injured scooter riders are arriving at ER department and filing lawsuits. This is a fast-moving area given the recent arrival of shareable electric scooters in our cities.
Why Are Shareable Electric Scooters So Popular?
Start-up companies began dumping electric scooters in cities in 2017 and 2018. They followed the aggressive model of Uber in flooding local markets without the permission of city authorities. According to Wired, the Silicon Valley-based company Spin wanted to fill the streets with easy pick-up, easy-drop off bikes in late 2016, based on a successful model in China. Spin predicted a transportation revolution as commuters became frustrated waiting in standstill downtown traffic in their cars.
However, Americans wanted more zip and less exercise. Spin ditched bikes for electric scooters.
Other companies ran with the model. From 2017 onwards, Bird, Lime, Skip, and Scoot brought their scooters to cities.
Wired reported scooter-uses fell for the innovation fast. Spin saw a 61 percent increase in ridership on the battery-powered two wheelers from March to May 2018 in San Francisco. Other cities including Santa Monica, California and Austin saw similar surges in popularity.
The rental business model, familiar to users of Uber and Lyft, proved popular with scooter riders. People wanting to rent a scooter download an app on their smartphone, use a map to find a nearby scooter on the street, enter a credit card, and scan a barcode to unlock the scooter.
Shareable electric scooters arrived in Maryland in 2018. They remain an urban phenomenon.
The Arrival of Shareable Electric Scooters in Maryland
The scooter-sharing startup Bird launched a pilot fleet of more than 60 dockless, electric scooters around the Baltimore Harbor in June 2018, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The company rents scooters for $1 initially and an additional 15 cents a minute, using its mobile app. Bird said it would retrieve the scooters each evening to store them and charge them and carry out repairs.
Vandals and thieves targeted Baltimore’s Bike Share program prompting officials to shut it down last year.
In August, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Transportation Director Michelle Pourciau announced a new dockless pilot program for the city in partnership with Bird and Lime to “provide citizens and visitors with expanded transportation sharing options across the city.”
The City of Baltimore promised “multi-mode bike/scooter options.” The city officially ended the Baltimore Bike Share program that it started in 2016.
The recent history of shareable electric scooter injuries suggests the safety implications of scooters may prove more damaging to the industry than vandalism and theft.
How Serious Are Shareable Electric Scooter Injuries?
Recent studies reveal shareable electric scooter injuries are often serious. Research published on the JAMA Network in early 2019 looked at 249 patients treated by emergency rooms after scooter accidents.
Just over 90 percent sustained injuries as riders. The others were people who were hit by scooters such as pedestrians. Only 10 patients were wearing a helmet when they were injured. Frequent injuries included 79 fractures, 100 head injuries, and 69 contusions, sprains, and lacerations without a fracture or head injury.
Hospital staff discharged most riders home from the ER and admitted 15. Two of them suffered severe injuries and were admitted to intensive care units.
An investigation by Consumer Reports blamed electric scooters for at least 1,545 accidents and deaths in a 12-month period.
Consumer Reports contacted 110 hospitals and five agencies in 47 U.S. cities where Bird or Lime operates. Researchers asked doctors how many patients they treated for scooter-related injuries.
The team found injuries from electric scooter injuries were regular and serious. People injured in electric scooter crashes started showing up about 18 months ago.
The emergency chief at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta said the emergency department treated about 360 people with injuries. Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville treated 250 people with injuries.
Doctors reported nasal fractures, multiple concussions, and bilateral forearm breaks. The studies question how much Lime, Bird, and other companies knew about injuries before they flooded cities with their scooters.
Consumer Reports obtained data from Portland, Oregon. It suggested Bird and Lime were aware of 470 injuries in Oregon before they expanded to multiple U.S. cities. Electric street scooters are blamed for at least four deaths. In February, a Lime scooter rider who was riding the wrong way, according to media reports, died in a crash with an Uber driver in Austin. Carlos Sanchez-Martin died on a Lime scooter in Washington DC in 2018 after an SUV hit him. The car dragging him for over a dozen yards and pinned him under the vehicle.
Investigating Defective Electric Scooter Injuries
Many dockless electrical scooter injuries are a result of rider inexperience or drivers who are unfamiliar with encountering the devices on city streets.
However, scooters that are routinely dumped and picked up on the streets may break fast. Accidents also raise questions about manufacturing defects.
A CNET article noted how Pat Brogan wound up in the emergency room after a terrifying electric scooter ride.
Brogan visited San Diego with her husband. They rented two Lime electric scooters. The couple ended up going down a steep hill. Brogan’s brakes failed when she applied them.
She blew through three intersections and decided to crash the scooter as she headed toward six lanes of traffic at 25 mph.
Brogan ended up with a broken metacarpal joined together with two metal pins in her right hand. She also cracked a knuckle joint. She sustained road rash and a hematoma on her entire right leg. She feared the consequences would have been worse had she not crashed the scooter.
There’s plenty of evidence that electric scooters cause a wide range of serious injuries and deaths. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study promises to be the first time a federal agency has taken a holistic view of the issue.
Taylor of Austin Public Health said the study will show scooter accidents occur at all times of the day and challenge other perceptions like the belief a car is usually involved in accidents.
Taylor said Austin Public Health’s research found most of the time injuries occur when a rider hits a bump in the road or loses their balance.
Contact an Experience Maryland Injury Lawyer About Shareable Electric Scooter Injuries
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we are concerned at how rapidly shareable electric scooters have arrived in our cities with minimal research. In Baltimore, city leaders have been quick to support Bird and Lime in a partnership before the full dangers of electric scooters were realized.
If you or a family member has suffered an injury on a shareable electric scooter, please contact our experienced Maryland scooter injury lawyers as soon as possible at (410) 288.2900.