Taking a ride on an electronic scooter soon? Wear your helmet! According to a recent study published in JAMA Surgery, not wearing headgear or taking other precautions while riding is increasingly sending young people to the hospital -- leading to more than 40,000 broken bones, head wounds and other injuries.
Unfortunately, less than 5% of riders in the study were found to be wearing their helmet, leading to nearly one-third of patients having a head injury. That's more than double the rate of head injuries experienced by bicyclists.
The rise is likely due to the increasingly popular adoption of scooters among young people in urban areas. Electronic scooter injuries for those aged 18-34 increased overall by 222%, and injuries sending riders to the hospital rose by 365% from 2014-2018, with the most dramatic increase in the last year. Close to two-thirds of those with scooter injuries were young men, and most were not wearing head protection.
"There was a high proportion of people with head injuries, which can be very dangerous," said Dr. Benjamin Breyer, an associate professor of urology and chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. "Altogether, the near doubling of e-scooter trauma from 2017 to 2018 indicates that there should be better rider safety measures and regulation."
Right now there doesn't seem to be much in the way of requirements for head gear while scootering in California, thanks to a change in the law that went into effect at the beginning of last year. Those over the age of 18 who want to ride without a helmet are free and legal to do so in California. Several other states also don't require helmet-wearing while on a motorized scooter.
The laws may need an update after recent revelations, but in the meantime, perhaps the scooter companies themselves can help ensure safety precautions. We reached out to several electronic scooter companies and only heard back from a few about this issue. Lime tells TechCrunch it is committed to safety by encouraging users to wear a helmet, offering discounts to buy one and giving away more than 250,000 as part of a campaign. Bird and others also encourage helmet-wearing on their site, and some companies offer helmets for rent at another location.
But the promise of scooters is their convenience. You don't have to carry anything. You just click on the app and hop on your ride. It's too easy to just hop on a scooter without prior planning or helmet in tow.
So what's the solution? Rider responsibility at this point. You're free to take your chances but, though inconvenient, wearing your helmet on that scooter ride could prevent a serious accident.
"It's been shown that helmet use is associated with a lower risk of head injury," said first author Nikan K. Namiri, a medical student at the UCSF School of Medicine. "We strongly believe that helmets should be worn, and e-scooter manufacturers should encourage helmet use by making them more easily accessible."