American College of Emergency Physicians | News Room - Published Letters

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Readers Write: Electric scooters and safety

Electric scooters are showing up in cities across the country and becoming a popular mode of transportation. Unfortunately, injuries associated with them are also becoming a popular reason why patients end up in my emergency room, where I treat broken arms, bad bruises, neck and facial injuries and even see serious head injuries caused by scooter accidents.

A study in JAMA Network Open in January looked at data on scooter-related injuries seen in emergency rooms between September 2017 and August 2018 at two UCLA hospitals, not far from Santa Monica, where shared scooters were first available in the U.S. It found that 249 people were treated for scooter-related trauma, mostly fractures and head injuries. More than 10 percent were younger than 18 (though rental agreements forbid such underage use), only about 4 percent had been wearing a helmet (despite rental agreements that require a helmet to operate the scooter), and 5 percent had elevated blood-alcohol levels or appeared to be intoxicated. Few are following the rules that exist for safe operation, which you might think would be a litigation risk for these businesses.

While scooters are fun and convenient, they can also be very dangerous if you don’t ride them correctly or follow the rules of the road. The most important thing you can do to avoid serious harm is wear a helmet and always be alert when riding. If you have been drinking alcohol or using cannabis, don’t ride an e-scooter. All common sense ways to reduce the risk of injury.

As an emergency physician, I’ll always be prepared to treat you if necessary. But being a responsible rider can be your greatest defense from getting injured in the first place.