Since first hitting the market in the United States in 2010, electric scooters – or e-scooters as they are more commonly known – have grown in popularity. In fact, they are now so popular that they can be found seemingly everywhere: on roadways, on sidewalks, in towns, in cities, in parks. E-scooters have become ubiquitous, with everyone from students to commuters to tourists making use of them to get around.
In fact, according to a 2022 industry report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, “commuters and tourists have logged more than half a billion shared trips.” This should come as no surprise, with many cities, municipalities, and counties looking toward e-scooters as an affordable, sustainable micro-mobility solution for neighborhoods and areas that lack viable transportation options.
But how safe are e-scooters? As it turns out, not quite as safe as the e-scooter industry would like people to believe.
What makes an e-scooter dangerous?
There are a few factors that make e-scooters more dangerous than a traditional scooter:
- Speed and weight. Unlike a traditional scooter or bicycle, some e-scooters can reach much higher speeds. While many e-scooters are lightweight and can reach maximum speeds of 15 miles per hour, that is not the case with all options currently on the market. A January 2023 online article in Forbes reviewed a “heavy-duty” scooter that can go at a maximum speed of 50 mph. The heavier an e-scooter is, the faster it will go, the quicker it will reach its top speed, and most importantly, the more difficult it will be to stop.
- Lack of training. There is no license or formal training required for e-scooter riders. Anyone who is interested in trying an e-scooter can simply hop on and zip around. This leaves a lot of room for error and injury, as riders may not understand the power and speed of the e-scooter they are riding, nor the responsibility they bear as its operator. The American Academy of Pediatrics has already recommended that children under the age of 16 should not be permitted to operate an e-scooter.
- Lack of clear safety regulations. Rules regarding where and when and at what speed e-scooters can be use are largely left up to municipalities. And, since e-scooters are still relatively new, many towns and cities – and their regulations and signage – have yet to catch up. In Charlotte, however, police announced in 2019 that e-scooters are permitted on sidewalks, but must yield to pedestrians, maintain a speed of 15 mph or less, and stay off sidewalks in a certain area of town.
- Lithium-ion batteries. The very thing that powers your e-scooter may lead to its demise. Fire safety experts warn that, if damaged, the lithium-ion batteries typically used in e-scooters (and e-bikes, for that matter) can “overheat, catch on fire, and even lead to explosions.” Fires caused by or involving lithium-ion batteries typically burn “very hot and can be difficult for firefighters to extinguish.”In addition to damage to the battery itself causing a fire, investigations have shown that “e-scooter battery fires have also been associated with faulty charging equipment, improper charging practices, and overloaded electrical circuits.” And, as the popularity of e-scooters and e-bikes continues to grow, so does the frequency of fires that involve lithium-ion batteries. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in the first half of 2023 alone, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) reported more than 100 fires involving lithium-ion batteries in e-scooters and e-bikes. These fires can cause injuries or even death and can destroy property.
In short, when it comes to e-scooters, the old adage of “buyer beware” applies. Riders should beware as well — according to a 2022 article in U.S. News & World Report, severe injuries among e-scooter riders have increased over the past ten years. Per the article, during that time frame “the number of patients admitted to hospitals after an e-scooter accident rose from one in 20 to one in eight.”
The usual risks of injury still apply to e-scooter operators
In addition to the unique dangers associated with e-scooters, they also carry the same risks involved in riding a traditional scooter, such as:
- Falling off of the e-scooter
- Being hit by a car
- Hitting a pedestrian or an object such as a tree or parked car
In all of these instances, the higher speeds at which e-scooters typically travel mean that the injuries a rider may suffer can be more severe. Added to that, many cities and towns only require that people over the age of 18 wear a safety helmet while riding an e-scooter. As a result, common injuries caused by e-scooter accidents can range from minor to severe. Common injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and scrapes
- Internal bleeding
- Road rash
- Skull fractures
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
- Sprains and other soft-tissue damage
- Torn ligaments
- Traumatic amputations
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
In some cases, an e-scooter accident can be fatal. In fact, in January 2023 a 16-year-old in Charlotte was killed when he was hit by a car while riding an e-scooter. This tragedy led many to question the safety of e-scooters.
E-scooter riders are not the only people at risk
Like any vehicle, e-scooters do not only present a danger to those riding them; they are also a potential danger to anyone who shares the sidewalk or road with an e-scooter. Anyone can be walking down the sidewalk and be hit by an e-scooter traveling at top speed, causing serious injuries. Similarly, an irresponsible or inattentive e-scooter rider may ride into the road or right into traffic, potentially causing an accident. While the odds of being hurt in that type of accident while you are traveling in a car are less than if you are the person on the e-scooter, they are not zero. And, even if you are not seriously injured, you may have to defend yourself against a civil suit if the e-scooter rider claims you were at fault in the accident.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident involving an e-scooter in Charlotte that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Price, Petho & Associates can help. We understand the nuances of North Carolina personal injury law and know how to navigate the court system — and insurance companies. From our offices in Charlotte, Rockingham, and Rutherfordton, we work hard to get our personal injury clients the best possible outcome in their case. Call us or complete our contact form today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled Charlotte personal injury attorneys.
Attorney Doug Petho is the owner and founder of Price, Petho & Associates. His primary focus is the litigation of plaintiff’s personal injury suits, and he has successfully tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict involving car accidents, trucking accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and work-related accidents. Contact his office in Charlotte today.