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CDC Launches Its First E-Scooter Safety Study In Austin

Posted April 8, 2019

As dockless e-scooters become more common across the USA, many public health officials have expressed safety concerns with these new devices. Indeed, one recent study out of Los Angeles found that more e-scooter users were injured between 2017 and 2018 than bicyclists or pedestrians. A few highly publicized e-scooter fatalities in cities like Austin and Washington, DC have also caused a great deal of concern. In a forthcoming e-scooter safety report, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes to address many of these worries with hard data and actionable safety suggestions.

Image credit: Elvert Barnes via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

What Is The CDC’s New E-Scooter Report?

To better understand the risks associated with this increasingly popular technology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to conduct its own investigation into e-scooter usage. Working with the Austin Public Health Department, the CDC will look over two month’s worth of traffic safety data from the Texan capital. Both of these departments will also conduct dozens of interviews with injured e-scooter users to better understand the most common risk factors associated with these devices.

If all goes according to plan, the CDC should release its new report by the spring of 2019. This could help some lawmakers decide future scooter regulations at the state level, such as Pennsylvania or Texas.

Three Major E-Scooter Risk Factors

Although the details of this study have yet to be released, officials at the CDC have already noted a few of the major risk factors they’ve noticed in e-scooter injury cases.

The most obvious issue the CDC wants to address is helmet usage. Amazingly, the CDC found that only 2 percent of e-scooter users who suffered some form of head trauma wore helmets at the time of their accident. Although every state has different regulations concerning helmet usage, the CDC hopes its new report will encourage all e-scooter users to wear a helmet while they’re operating a device.

Another issue the CDC will most likely mention in its official report is two people sharing one e-scooter. Since these devices were only designed for one person, it’s more likely couples that ride on an e-scooter will get involved in serious crashes.

Third, the CDC is expected to recommend women only wear flat-soled shoes on e-scooters. Apparently, there have been many cases of e-scooter injuries involving women in high-heels.

How Do E-Scooter Companies Feel About The CDC’s Investigation?

All of the major e-scooter rental companies (e.g. Lime and Bird) openly praised the CDC’s current investigation into e-scooter safety. In interviews with the press, these e-scooter rental companies stressed the priority they place on the safety of their customers. Company execs also said they believe the CDC’s investigation will improve the safety conditions for e-scooter riders in American cities.

For their own part, many e-scooter companies hold special events throughout the year where they promote safe riding habit. Most companies also offer to send helmets to their users for a small shipping fee and a few require e-scooter users to verify their age by scanning a driver’s license.

In addition to identifying major safety risks, e-scooter rental companies are glad to hear this CDC report will dispel common myths about these devices. For instance, CDC analysts report that most e-scooter crashes don’t involve cars. The CDC has also found that DUI isn’t a major cause for e-scooter injuries.

E-Scooter Safety According To UCLA Study

Although the CDC study represents the first time a national organization has taken an interest in e-scooter safety, there has already been one major year-long study into this topic. As mentioned in the intro, this study took place in Los Angeles between 2017 and 2018.

Researchers UCLA looked at data from Emergency Rooms at both the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica between these years. Throughout the yearlong testing phase, 249 injured patients were involved in an e-scooter accident. Within the same timeframe, these hospitals reported 195 injured bicyclists and 181 injured pedestrians.

E-scooter riders were far more likely to be injured in these crashes than non-riders. According to the study, about 40 percent of e-scooter patients had some type of head trauma and another 31 percent suffered from a fracture. The most common time for crashes was between 3PM and 11PM and, unsurprisingly, only 4 percent of e-scooter victims wore a helmet at the time of their crash.

Data from this study clearly suggests e-scooter users are at an increased risk of serious injuries. The reason why e-scooter users are more prone to injuries, however, remains a hotly debated topic. Since this LA study was the first of its kind, scientists still need more research to better understand safety issues related to these devices.

Anyone interested in reading more about this UCLA study could find the full report in a recent edition of JAMA under the title “Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use.

A Few Helpful E-Scooter Resources

For those interested in keeping up to date on this new CDC study, be sure to check the CDC’s main webpage as well as this website for the Austin Public Health Department. You could also read more about e-scooter safety on the websites of all major companies like Bird and Lime.

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