Scooter Injuries Tripled in 4 Years, Study Says

As scooter injuries have been rapidly increasing, costs to treat them rose five-fold over the course of four years, a study finds.

The popularity of electric scooters has been growing globally, as they are relatively environmentally friendly and help to avoid traffic jams. At the same time, accidents involving e-scooters are also increasing, leading to severe injuries, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The researchers used data from the 2016-2020 National Inpatient Sample to compare national trends in scooter and bicycle injuries over the period. Of nearly 93,000 patients who were hospitalized for injuries, about 6,100 (6.6%) resulted from scooter injuries.

About 27% of injured scooter users were under the age of 18, compared with 16% in the bicycle groups. Injuries were most frequent in winter, and about a quarter of patients were insured by Medicaid.

More than half (56%) of scooter and 48% of bicycle injuries led major operative interventions, mainly orthopedic and plastic surgery, 89% and 85%, respectively.

Operations to the head were performed following 5% of scooter and 4% of bicycle injuries requiring major operative interventions.

Scooter riders were also more likely to experience long bone fractures and paralysis than cyclists, though both groups had similar odds of suffering traumatic brain injuries.

Unsurprisingly, the growing number of injuries raised the healthcare burden of their treatment. The annual healthcare costs of treating scooter-related injuries jumped five-fold, from about $6.6 million in 2016 to $35.5 million in 2020. Meanwhile, the annual cost of treating bicycle injuries rose from $307 million to $434 million.

The rise in scooter injuries requiring hospitalizations and major operations underlines the need to elevate safety standards for riders, says the study’s author, Nam Yong Cho, a research associate at the UCLA Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Laboratories, said in a statement.

Advocating for improved infrastructure, including enforced speed limits and dedicated lanes, is also vital to minimize risks for vehicles, scooter riders, and pedestrians alike.

Nam Yong Cho

Sometimes, e-scooter injuries can also be fatal. A 31-year-old Queens man recently died after he crashed his stand-up scooter and suffered head injuries, the New York Post reports.

A 2023 study from France found that mortality due to e-scooter road traffic crashes was 9.2%, compared with 10% for bicycles. Moreover, e-scooter riders experienced higher rates of severe traumatic brain injury compared to bicycle or motorbike riders.

How to ride an e-scooter safely

The new study's findings should be interpreted with caution, as the database did not differentiate between electric and non-electric scooters.

Moreover, the study included limited data on helmet use, the presence of multiple riders in the vehicles, the use of intoxicants, and other factors that could have played a role in causing accidents.

Nevertheless, the researchers say their findings are a call to action for healthcare leaders to promote scooter-related injury prevention.

Research shows that simple safety measures can make traumas less severe. For instance, a 2022 study found that 87% of children who experienced skull fractures while riding e-scooters were not wearing helmets.

U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission recommends that e-scooter riders follow these safety rules:

  • Wear a helmet, and consider wearing knee and elbow pads.
  • Before riding, ensure the handlebars, brakes, throttle, bell, lights, tires, cables, and frame are in good condition.
  • Make sure you know how to use the brakes and how long it takes to stop the e-scooter.
  • Expect passengers and vehicles not to see you; slow down and use the bell/horn to alert others.
  • Watch out for obstacles, such as uneven surfaces or small objects.
  • Always keep both hands on the handlebars.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Always ride solo.
  • Avoid distractions, such as listening to music or talking on the phone.

A scooter is an affordable and eco-friendly means of transport. However, unsafe riding practices may lead to severe injuries and large hospital bills.

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