Electric Scooters: Risk or Reward?

Dockless electric scooter companies, such as Bird and Lime, have placed thousands of scooters in major cities and college towns across the U.S. over the past few years, and their popularity continues to grow.

As the popularity of shared electric scooters continues to grow, so do reported injuries caused by the scooters. The bulk of the injuries include bone fractures and/or trauma to the foot and ankle, wrist, ribs, collarbone and scapula. Bone fractures afflict about 35 percent of injured riders, with 19 percent of those suffering multiple fractures to various body parts. Beyond fractures, other common injuries include scrapes, bruises, and organ damage – in some cases, even brain trauma.

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, 38.5 million trips were taken on e-scooters in the U.S. in 2018; and the number is expected to increase this year!

If you’ve been in downtown Nashville recently, you will know that these scooters are everywhere. In fact, there are currently 4,500 total e-scooters available in the city. The concept is similar to ridesharing (think Uber and Lyft). Riders download an app where they will be able to pay for, start, and end rides. The scooters are readily available, relatively inexpensive, convenient, and fun for both tourists and locals.

But does the risk outweigh the reward?

As podiatrists, a story out of California involving a traumatic ankle injury caught our attention. In October 2018 in Santa Monica, a 31-year-old woman broke her ankle in 3 places as a result of a scooter accident. Her injuries required immediate surgery to implant a metal plate and screws in her ankle.

Scooter injuries occur for various reasons, such as collisions with cars, curbs, poles or other objects. Some riders have even hit pedestrians, causing potential injury to both the rider and/or pedestrian. Other times, the scooter is to blame due to faulty brakes or wheels. Alcohol and other distractions, such as music or phone calls, have been a factor in many of the reported incidents.

According to the Tennessean scooter injuries spiked in April; the Nashville Fire Department responded to 43 emergency calls involving scooters. This number was significantly higher than previous months. Hospitals in the area are also reporting an increase in scooter-related injuries. Both Vanderbilt University Medical Center and St. Thomas Midtown have reported treating 1-3 scooter injuries to the feet, legs, arms or head per day over the past few months.

The e-scooter companies are beginning to respond to the growing safety concern surrounding the scooters as well. Lime recently put $3 million towards a safety initiative called ‘Respect the Ride,’ which includes giving away 25,000 helmets to Lime riders.

We don’t want to discourage the use of electric scooters, but there’s a safer way to ride!

Here are a few simple tips that can help riders avoid a potentially serious injury:

  • Let’s start with the most obvious one – wear a helmet!
  • Check to ensure that the brakes work properly before proceeding with ride.
  • Don’t ride on crowded sidewalks and use bike lanes whenever possible.
  • Be courteous to pedestrians.
  • Don’t drink and ride.
  • Ride free of distractions such as music, podcasts, and phone calls.
  • Be mindful of speed.
  • Do not try any jumps, tricks or stunts.

If you or a loved one experience a foot or ankle injury schedule an appointment today at one of our conveniently located Middle Tennessee Locations!