The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a first-time study on electric scooter accidents. According to CNBC, the CDC is studying a rise in e-scooter injuries at the request of Austin Public Health and the Austin Transportation Department in Texas.
Electric scooters have been making a bigger appearance in more cities as scooter-sharing start-ups expand into metro areas. Scooter-sharing companies like Bird and Lime, who support the CDC study, are currently operating in over 100 U.S. cities and at least six other countries.
“We want to identify the risk factors for those who get injured, how severe the injuries are and why they’re getting hurt,” said Jeff Taylor, the manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health.
Taylor is working with three CDC epidemiologists to examine severe e-scooter injuries that happened in Austin between September and November 2018.
“There’s a perception that scooter-related injuries occur at night. Well that’s not true,” said Taylor. “Our study will show they occur during all times of the day.”
“People may also perceive there’s typically a car involved,” Taylor said. There are 5.9 million commercial motor vehicle drivers operating in the U.S. and 66% of drivers admit to letting themselves get distracted while driving in a parking lot. There are roughly 6 million car accidents in the U.S. every year. “But,” Taylor added, “our study finds most of the time the rider may hit a bump in the road or they simply lose their balance.”
Scooter-sharing has become a popular alternative to ride-sharing, especially among younger Americans. Millennials have been increasingly flocking to major cities and can’t afford car payments with high student loan debt and poor credit (a maxed-out credit card uses up to 100% credit ratio).
Scooter-sharing provides an alternative for transportation, although scooter-related injuries have been on the rise in most cities where scooter-sharing companies have been popping up.
The University of San Diego Medical Center began tracking severe injuries in September 2017. The center admitted 42 patients for e-scooter related injuries in 2018.
Approximately 98% of patients admitted to the USD Medical Center weren’t wearing a helmet. Another 48% had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, and 52% tested positive for an illicit substance.
Data from the USD medical center in Santa Monica and the Ronald Reagan Medical Center were also examined by UCLA researchers. Data collected between September 2017 and August 2018 revealed that 249 people were admitted to the emergency room for e-scooter related injuries, mostly from falls.
The Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas has also been collecting data and tracking e-scooter related injuries since May 2018 when e-scooters were first introduced to the Austin Market.
Up to 66 patients were admitted for severe traumas related to e-scooter injuries. The traumas included 19 head injuries, 13 facial injuries, and 38 orthopedic injuries.
“We have 11 doctor shifts a day and most of the doctors tell me it’s hard to go a whole shift without seeing at least one scooter injury,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department medical director at DSMC-UT.
A Lime spokesperson said in a statement that the company is taking the issue of e-scooter injuries very seriously. “We’re doing all that we can to work with cities, education, and technology to address these accidents and it’s encouraging the medical community is as well,” they said.
The data for deaths and injuries from e-scooters is currently incomplete, but the CDC is developing methods to determine the number of injuries related to dockless electric scooters. Taylor says of the incomplete data that fewer than 1% of riders so far who have been injured were wearing helmets at the time.
The CDC plans to release its findings on the investigation with its safety recommendations later this spring.
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