In recent years, urban landscapes have witnessed a rapid surge in the popularity of e-scooters as a means of transportation. These compact electric vehicles, easily accessible and environmentally friendly, have become a ubiquitous sight in many cities across the globe. However, beneath their seemingly innocent exterior lies a myriad of dangers that demand both attention and caution. In this blog post, we shed light on the hidden perils of e-scooters, exploring the risks they pose to riders, pedestrians, and overall public safety.
1. Vulnerability to Accidents
One of the most pressing concerns surrounding e-scooters is their vulnerability to accidents. Due to their small size, low visibility, and lack of protective barriers, riders are exposed to significant risks, especially when sharing the road with larger vehicles. Collisions between e-scooters, cars, or pedestrians can lead to severe injuries, ranging from fractures and concussions to spinal cord damage and even fatalities. The absence of standardized safety measures, such as helmets or mandatory training for riders, further exacerbates this risk.
2. Reckless Riding and Lack of Regulations
E-scooters have witnessed a surge in popularity among riders of all ages, but this newfound enthusiasm often comes at the expense of safety and responsible riding practices. Many riders exhibit reckless behavior, including speeding, riding on sidewalks, ignoring traffic signals, and even riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An e-scooter is capable of traveling at speeds of up to 25 m.p.h., which can produce serious injury in a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. Moreover, e-scooters are top heavy, making them prone to tipping over at higher speeds.
The absence of strict regulations and a comprehensive enforcement mechanism worsens the problem of reckless use, as it becomes challenging to hold riders accountable for their actions. California imposes few limits on the operation of e-scooters. For example, e-scooters must only be ridden on a bicycle path, trail or bikeway, and never on the sidewalk. E-scooters also must not exceed 15 m.p.h. Many cities have local ordinances that also prohibit e-scooters on sidewalks. Despite these rules, a 2020 study by the Institute for Highway Safety found that almost 60 percent of accidents involving e-scooters occurred on sidewalks.
Riders of e-scooters do not need to pass any type of test or complete any training either. As a result, riders may not know traffic laws or even how to properly operate an e-scooter. A 2022 Norwegian study found that nearly 40 percent of e-scooter accidents involved an intoxicated operator, a must higher percentage than automobile accidents. One possible explanation for this high percentage is that riders simply are unaware that DUI laws apply to the operation of e-scooters.
As e-scooters become more common, injuries related to their use have naturally increased. Researchers at UCLA found that head injuries and broken bones are the most common injuries associated with e-scooter accidents. The researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who conducted the first nationwide analysis of electric scooter health risks concurred. Their study revealed that nearly one-third of electric scooter victims suffer serious head trauma and brain injuries. A 2022 Finnish study found that injuries from the use of e-scooters are much more prevalent than use of motorbikes or bicycles. Despite such studies, all of which confirm the dangers of e-scooters, California only mandates that riders under the age of 18 wear a helmet, although some cities or counties may have local ordinances that require all riders to wear helmets.
3. Unequal Access and Sidewalk Congestion
While e-scooters are touted as an inclusive transportation solution, but the companies providing e-scooter rentals often concentrate their services in affluent areas, leaving low-income neighborhoods without this convenient mode of transport. Moreover, the indiscriminate parking and haphazard abandonment of e-scooters can congest sidewalks, creating obstacles for pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities or mobility issues.
4. Environmental Implications
E-scooters are often portrayed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional transportation. While they do emit fewer greenhouse gases compared to cars, their environmental impact is not negligible. The manufacturing and disposal of e-scooters, contribute to the overall carbon footprint. E-scooters have a comparatively short lifespan due to wear and tear and frequent accidents, which leads to a cycle of continuous production thereby exacerbating environmental implications.
5. Public Health Concerns
The proliferation of e-scooters has given rise to a range of public health concerns. In addition to increasing rates of physical injury, the influx of e-scooters tends to lead to an uptick in incidents of theft and vandalism, further compromising public safety.
One of the most significant public health concerns, however, pertains to the lithium-ion batteries that are used to power e-scooters. Incidents of these batteries overheating when charged, catching fire or even exploding are increasing. You can find a safety tip sheet here from the National Fire Protection Association.
What to Do if You Have Been Injured by an E-Scooter
If you have been injured by an operator of an e-scooter you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. It is important that you contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible after the injuries occurred, as these cases present unique challenges not necessarily present with automobile collision cases.
Operators of e-scooters may also be entitled to compensation if they are injured due to the negligence of others who share the roadway. Moreover, operators of e-scooters may be injured due to a defect present in the e-scooter.
Whether you are the operator of an e-scooter who has been injured, or you were injured by an e-scooter operator, Young Law Group can assist you with your negligence or products liability claims.
E-scooters offer a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation. However, hidden perils accompany this seemingly innovative solution. From the vulnerability of riders to accidents and injuries to reckless riding practices and unequal access, e-scooters present a multifaceted challenge to urban safety and public well-being. Stricter regulations, increased public awareness, and proactive measures by both e-scooter companies and local authorities are needed to mitigate these risks and create a more sustainable and secure urban environment. In the meantime, if you have been injured by an e-scooter, seek qualified legal representation as soon as possible.