By: Ashley Morgan, MD, MS, FAAP
Shared electric scooters (e-scooters) are common in cities and on college campuses across the United States. Much like bike shares, you can find them on the street, unlock them with a smartphone app and leave them at your destination. But there is a cost to convenience: e-scooter-related emergency room visits have spiked.
With this increase in e-scooter injuries, it is important to be aware of dangers and regulations surrounding e-scooters and how to keep kids safe. Read on to learn more.
Common e-scooter injuries
If you fall off an e-scooter, which can travel up to 15 and 20 miles per hour, you are going to get hurt. Period.
The most common injuries are cuts, fractures and head injuries. Some of these injuries are severe. Many of these injuries are caused by incidents with motor vehicles or user-control issues of the e-scooter.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 16―who are too young to have a driver's license―should not operate or ride on motorized or e-scooters.
Types of scooters
If e-scooters haven't reached your sidewalks yet, here is an overview on the various types of scooters:
1. Non-motorized scooters: Human-powered scooters without a motor.
2. Motorized scooter: 2-wheeled vehicle with a rechargeable battery.
3. E-scooter: Dockless, 2-wheeled vehicles available for rent in various cities.
Helmets: the best protection on e-scooters
All scooters pose a similar―if not increased―risk of head injury compared with bikes.
Helmets are the best way to prevent serious head injuries, but usage remains low. Consider:
2017 survey found that parents were less likely to make their child or adolescent wear a helmet while riding a scooter when compared to riding a bike. Only 57% of parents said they would make their child or adolescent wear a helmet while riding a scooter.
When signing up on the apps to rent e-scooters, riders are asked to wear helmets; yet helmets are not provided.
Images on social media often make it seem like it's ok to ride a scooter without a helmet. Always make sure to wear a helmet when using an e-scooter, even if advertisements do not show riders wearing them.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study showing that there are about
14 injuries per 100,000 trips on motorized scooters. Some of these injuries were severe.
According to the
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2021, there were an estimated 42,200 emergency room visits due to e-scooter injuries. This number shows a 66% increase from 2020.
E-scooters are responsible for 68 deaths from 2017 through 2021.
E-scooter injuries in children are increasing, which is likely due to the rising popularity of e-scooter sharing apps. It is important that parents are aware of the dangers and regulations surrounding e-scooters.
10 important safety rules for all e-scooter riders
Children under 16 should not operate or ride on motorized or e-scooters. In some cities, it is illegal for kids under 16 to use an e-scooter.
Wear a helmet and closed-toe shoes. Wearing a helmet may prevent or reduce the severity of e-scooter injuries. An adult who falls off an e-scooter is just as likely to hit their head as a child.
Wear protective gear. This includes elbow and kneepads and reflective gear when riding at night.
Start slow. The accelerator and braking tabs on the handles can take getting used to.
No texting and riding. Use both hands to operate the scooter.
No earbuds in. Be aware of your surroundings.
Use bike lanes when available. If not available, riders should stay on the right side of the road.
Do not ride e-scooters on sidewalks, beach paths, or parks. This puts pedestrians at risk of injury as well as riders.
Do not operate an e-scooter while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or even some prescription medicines. Parents should set an example for their children in this regard.
E-scooters are not allowed on highways. Many e-scooter accidents involve motor vehicles. Be aware when riding an e-scooter on busy streets.
E-scooter laws and regulations
Many cities set an age restriction for 16 years and up to operate e-scooters. . Law enforcement can issue traffic violations to those who break those rules. A juvenile age 16 or over is treated as an adult for traffic offenses. For younger offenders, however, a court can require a parent or guardian to appear personally at court hearings and pay a fine.
If you live in a city with e-scooters for rent:
Make sure you understand how to operate an e-scooter safely before riding it. Riding an e-scooter is very different than riding a bike. They accelerate without you pedaling. They have a different center of balance that takes getting used to.
Know that e-scooters are easily accessible to minors. For example, most cities do not have a way to verify a user's age, so children and teenagers are able to sign up on an app without parental consent. Make sure your children know the rules and your expectations. Check their phone if you have concerns.
Talk with your college-aged children about the dangers of operating e-scooters while texting, listening to music, or while under the influence of alcohol.
About Dr. Morgan:
Ashley Morgan, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and an adolescent medicine fellow at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is a member of to the Section on Adolescent Health. Follow her on X/Twitter