Critics of electric scooters have complained they’re a menace to public safety since they began appearing on Atlanta streets more than a year ago. A string of recent fatal scooter accidents has fueled those complaints.
Comprehensive e-scooter accident and injury data are hard to come by, in part because they’re a new phenomenon. But a recent study out of Austin, Texas - conducted by the Austin health department with assistance from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – offers a glimpse of the toll of scooter injuries in one city.
The study (you can read it here), examined e-scooter-related injuries in Austin from Sept. 5 to Nov. 30 last year. During that time, there were 936,110 e-scooter trips in the city.
Consulting EMS incident reports and emergency room data from local hospitals, the researchers documented at least 192 confirmed or probable scooter injury accidents – or 20 people injured per 100,000 e-scooter trips.
None of those injured died. But almost half had severe injuries like broken bones, tendon or ligament injuries and severe bleeding.
The researchers say the study likely underestimates the prevalence of e-scooter injuries. For example, it documented only people who required an emergency medical response or treatment at an emergency room – not those who sought treatment at an urgent care facility or private physician.
Still, the study offers clues as to what might prevent injuries. More than a third of injured riders interviewed reported that excessive speed contributed to their injury. Nearly 30 percent said they had drunk an alcoholic beverage in the 12 hours preceding their injury. And nearly half had head injuries.
The researchers called for better education on safe scooter riding practices.
“These educational messages should emphasize both wearing a helmet and maintaining a safe speed while riding an e-scooter,” the report concluded. “Educational messages should especially target young adults 18 to 29 years of age.”
Despite safety concerns, advocates say scooters can be part of the solution to Atlanta’s traffic mess. You can find more information on Atlanta’s scooter debate here.