Legislators Take Note: New Report Calls For Crackdown On E-Scooter Use

Impaired operation of e-scooters, serious head injuries among young people and an alarming increase in hospital visits prompts a call for likely increased legislation and ordinances


January 10, 2020

During last year’s Texas legislative session, more than one lawmaker had some choice words about the influx of electric scooters, especially on the streets of Downtown Austin.

Late in the session a short discussion ensued among senators about their experiences, with District 17 Senator Joan Huffman reciting several instances in which she felt endangered by relatively fast moving scooters along Congress Ave.

District 23 Senator Royce West even had a late-breaking bill, SB 549, that went up to the Transportation Committee based on concerns about the dangers posed by use of the e-scooters on city sidewalks across the state.

Sen. West’s bill died in committee, and while no other scooter action was taken, a new report published in the journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Assoc.) Surgery on Wednesday lends strong support for new laws regulating the electric scooters.

The report cites nearly 40,000 electric scooter injuries in the United States between 2014 and 2018, while the number of hospital admissions from accidents also soared to about 3,300, a surge over the same period of about 365%.

And a large number of these very serious injuries were among young people.

“Significant injuries including intracranial hemorrhage [bleeding under the skull] and fractures requiring operative intervention were present in over half (51%) of patients,” the researchers reported.

And the report, lightly titled “The e-merging e-pidemic of e-scooters,” notes a consistent use of alcohol and “illegal substances” among those using the scooters.

So legislators and local lawmakers take note: Helmet requirements among e-scooter users would help a lot, but there’s also the problem of impaired usage.

“Interventions aimed at increasing helmet use and discouraging eScooter operation while intoxicated are necessary to reduce the burden of eScooter-related trauma,” the report concluded.

While conceding that use of the scooters is “a fast and convenient form of transportation” and quite useful to relieve traffic in congested areas, the researchers said “we’re very concerned about the significant increase in injuries and hospital admissions that we documented, particularly during the last year, and especially with young people, where the proportion of hospital admissions increased 354 percent.”

The survey was conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco, analyzing data taken from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a US Consumer Product Safety Commission project.

— Mike Shiloh