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e-scooter injury prevention

How Safe Are Scooters?

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Being a kid both in body and spirit, a few years ago I asked for a Razor scooter for Christmas. With the same child-like zeal, I took the scooter on a few errands one nice day in January and was shocked at how fast it flew. While my scooter was limited by the speed I could generate, a new kid, the electric, or e-scooter, has now come to the playground.

Powered by an electric motor, most e-scooters have a maximal speed of 20mph, seemingly slow compared to the average speed of city traffic today.8 Sounds like fun, right? Consider a few facts. First, it is helpful to note the average bicyclist pedals at 10-13mph, even Tour de France cyclists only average 25-28mph on flat roads and maximal moped speed is 35-40mph.3,5 Furthermore, the 20mph e-scooter speed can be attained while standing on a platform not much wider than your feet.

Most notably, while I decided after my inaugural scooter venture that future excursions would be with a helmet, and subsequently two falls have led to nothing more serious than abrasions and damaged pride, other riders have not fared so fortunately. According to two 2019 studies from the Austin, Texas Department of Public Health and two Southern California academic medical hospitals where established e-scooter rental programs exist, the majority of injuries – 80 percent – were due to falls.1,4,9 Of these, 40-48 percent resulted in head trauma with 15 percent having evidence suggestive of traumatic brain injury.1,4,9 Only one reported wearing a helmet.1 In the Southern California review and a study from a local town, a paltry 4.4 percent of injured riders reported wearing a helmet.4,9 Although less common, fractures still comprised an astounding 32 and 84 percent of “minor” injuries followed by sprains, wounds and bruises.1,4,9 Not surprisingly, 70 percent involved the upper extremity.1 Overall, the injuries impacted a small percentage of riders: about 20 people per 1,000 riders.1

While e-scooters may have the connotation of youthful fun, the preceding information may give pause to just how “kid-like” this mode of transportation is. With the summer 2019 launch of e-scooter rentals in Chicago and other metropolitan areas, the following is helpful safety information to know if you decide to scoot around the city this summer1,6,7:

  • To improve ability to maintain balance while moving on a scooter practice the following two exercises:

1. Stand in tandem stance position (heel to toe) on a solid surface, similar to standing position on a scooter. While maintaining tandem stance reach as far as possible toward the right using your left hand. Perform 5-10 repetitions. Perform on both sides while maintaining your balance.

2. Stand with one foot elevated on a small step or large book while holding on to a solid surface. Lift foot on floor off floor and pause briefly. Ensure pelvis remains level and you do not lean to the side. Perform 5-10 repetitions. Perform on both sides while maintaining your balance.

  • Always wear a helmet. Other protective gear such as wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, as well as close-toed shoes are beneficial.2 Despite my experience, and that of several others in the referenced studies, the City of Chicago does not mandate helmet use for riders so make sure to rent or bring your own.5
  • Check brakes, lights and tires before riding to ensure they are working properly.6
  • Even though Chicago e-scooters are limited to 15mph, start slowly.6 If you need proof, 37 percent of injured individuals cited excessive speed as a contributing factor.1
  • Familiarize yourself with accelerator and braking mechanisms as controls take getting used to.2 Apps or company website tutorials are available.6 Watching a video on how to ride a scooter seems less silly from a hospital bed and may prevent serious injury.
  • Maintain both hands on the handlebars at all times.6
  • Be mindful of surrounding traffic and obey signals as e-scooters are prohibited on sidewalks.2,6,7
  • Watch for bumps, cracks and potholes that could result in loss of balance and risk of falls. Scooters are made to be ridden on smooth surfaces. If it is raining or the ground is wet, take this into consideration during braking or making turns.6
  • Avoid headphones or earbuds while riding to ensure awareness of vehicles and pedestrians.2
  • Stay hydrated. Disorientation due to dehydration may also lead to loss of balance heightening fall risk.

If you decide to ride an electric scooter, make sure to take your first ride slowly so you can find your balance and get used to riding. Appraised with the above information and a bit of common sense, you can ensure your initial ride has all the child-like fun characteristic of scooters.

Should a serious injury occur while riding a scooter, make sure to have it checked out right away by an emergency medical professional. Should unusual aches or pains linger after a scooter ride, schedule a free assessment at an Athletico near you to have our movement experts take a look at your injury.

Schedule a Free Assessment

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Biggest Factor in scooter crashes? Speed study says. Published: June 12, 2019. Accessed: June 25, 2019
2. Don’t Let Your Electric Scooter Ride End in the ER. Published: June 25, 2018. Accessed: June 25, 2019.
3. Average cycling speed for new and experienced cyclists.. Accessed: July 3, 2019.
4. Preventing Injuries From Electric Scooters. Published: February 5, 2019. Accessed: June 27, 2019.
5. The Average Mile Time for a Pro Cyclist. Published: 2019. Accessed: July 4, 2019
6. What You Need to Know about Chicago’s Summer Dockless E-Scooter Program. Published: 2019. Accessed: July 4, 2019
7. Electric shared scooters have arrived in Chicago: Here’s what you need to know. Published: June 17, 2019. Accessed July 3, 2019
8. Which is the fastest electric scooters in 2019? Published: 2019. Accessed: July 3, 2019.
9. Trivedi TK, Liu C, Antonio ALM, et al. Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(1):19

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