A recent study found a dramatic increase in electric scooter injuries and hospital admissions in the past few years. Worse, about a third of those injured suffered head injuries. Clearly, more riders need to be wearing helmets, but most e-scooter companies don’t provide them. What can be done to improve safety?
First, let’s look at the study, which was recently published in the journal JAMA Surgery. The researchers examined data on scooter-related injuries reported to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, or NEISS, which estimates the total number of injuries and hospital admissions in the U.S.
The study examined data from 2014 to 2018, although it focused especially on 2017 and 2018. This is because most dockless electric scooter programs became popular in about 2017. Since then, municipalities have scrambled to find ways to allow these programs to operate safely.
Between 2014 and 2018, there were approximately 39,100 injuries involving e-scooters in the U.S. Of those, 22,667 – nearly 58% — occurred in 2017 and 2018.
The study’s authors note, however, that this is probably and undercount of injuries involving two-wheeled electric scooters of the type being offered for rent. That’s because there is no separate tracking system for such injuries. Moreover, they are easily lumped in with injuries involving other types of scooters, such as those used for mobility. Where the scooter type was unclear, the authors did not count the accident.
There was an earlier study of e-scooter injuries done last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That study only looked Austin, Texas, but it found that about half of the injuries people sustained when using e-scooters were head injuries. This newer study pegged the proportion of head injuries at about one third.
In both studies, the majority of the injuries were serious.
How can helmet use be encouraged?
Wearing a helmet has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence and severity of head injuries. However, although the companies that lease the e-scooters say they encourage helmet use, they don’t actually provide helmets with the scooters. This leaves individual riders with the responsibility of bringing their own helmets.
The authors of the more recent study found that the vast majority of riders do not use helmets. They and other experts call for more to be done to encourage helmet use when riding e-scooters.
This might include more public safety messaging encouraging riders to wear helmets, perhaps by pointing out some of the risks. Or, e-scooter providers could be required to make helmets more easily accessible, such as by renting them nearby.
What do you think could be done to improve helmet use among e-scooter riders? Any other suggestions for how to reduce the injury rate?