By: Ashley Morgan, MD, FAAP
Shared electric e-scooters, which can travel up to 15 miles per hour, are commonly found in cities and on college campuses across the US. 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.
If you fall off an e-scooter, you are going to get hurt. Period.
The most common injuries are cuts, fractures, and head injuries. Some of these injuries are severe.
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:
Scooters come in many different forms and are available for either purchase or rent. If e-scooters haven't reached your city or town yet, here is an overview on the various types of scooters:
Non-motorized scooters: Human-powered scooters without a motor.
Motorized scooter: 2-wheeled vehicle with a rechargeable battery.
E-scooter: Dockless, 2-wheeled vehicles available for rent in various cities.
Spread the Word: Wear a Helmet!
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.
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, with only 57% of parents saying 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. In fact, a
2018 study found many Instagram photos of customers' experiences with Bird, a popular e-scooter rental service, that lacked protective gear like helmets.
No national data on e-scooter injuries exist yet. Health officials are preparing to track it, but in the meantime, hope to prevent future injuries with public awareness campaigns. For example, the city of Portland handed out free helmets to remind residents of the
Oregon law requiring them.
The AAP urges all e-scooter riders to scoot safely and follow these safety rules:
Wear protective gear. This includes: elbow and kneepads and reflective gear for 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.
E-scooter Laws and Regulations:
E-scooters are still so new that many cities are still working on how to regulate them. Some have banned them completely, while others have made rules about where they can be used. 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:
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, listing 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 serves as the trainee liaison to Section on Adolescent Health. Follow her on Twitter