UCLA researchers have found that people involved in electric scooter accidents are sometimes injured badly enough — from fractures, dislocated joints and head injuries — to require treatment in an emergency department. The researchers examined data from 249 people who were treated at the emergency departments of UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018. The study found that about one-third of them arrived by ambulance, an indication of the severity of their injuries.
“There are thousands of riders now using these scooters, so it’s more important than ever to understand their impact on public health,” says Tarak Trivedi, MD, an emergency physician and scholar in the National Clinician Scholars Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The research is the first published study on injuries caused by electric scooters. It reports that the most common mechanisms of injury among scooter riders were falls (80 percent), collisions with objects (11 percent) or being struck by a moving vehicle such as a car, bicycle or other scooter (9 percent).
Most of the injured, 92 percent, were riders, and 8 percent were non-riders, including pedestrians who were struck by scooter riders or who stumbled over a discarded scooter. Alcohol was shown to be a factor in about 5 percent of patients; about 4 percent of patients were documented to be wearing a protective helmet while riding their e-scooter. Fifteen people were admitted to the hospital, two of whom were treated in an intensive care unit.
The authors noted some limitations of the study. The researchers were limited to the data available in electronic medical records, so information on certain variables — like whether or not riders were wearing helmets at the time of their injuries — was not always available. They excluded data on 74 emergency department visits that were suspected to be scooter-related but lacked sufficient documentation. They also could not evaluate the role that urban planning and infrastructure might play, for example the influences of speed limits and the availability of dedicated bicycle lanes.
The authors wrote that the Segway, a two-wheeled personal transporter that was introduced in the early 2000s and a precursor of the scooters, also carried a serious risk for orthopaedic and neurologic injuries. “We noted similar patterns of injury with the new standing electric scooters,” says Joann Elmore, MD, MPH, professor of medicine in the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research. “But unlike Segway transporters, standing electric scooters will have a substantial impact on public health given their low cost, popularity and broad accessibility.”
— Enrique Rivero
“Injuries Associated with Standing Electric Scooter Use,” JAMA Network Open, January 25, 2019