The Dangers Associated With E-scooters and Pedestrians

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by Craig Aronow, Esq.

The Growing Dangers That E-scooters Pose to Pedestrians

Major cities, tourist destinations and other areas with high foot traffic have become hotbeds for sidewalk injuries as more e-scooter rental stations appear. As many cities struggle with how to implement these new methods of personal transportation, more pedestrians and riders are suffering injuries at disproportionate rates.

Understanding More About E-scooters

In terms of personal urban transportation, electric scooters are currently the craze. Some e-scooters are capable of traveling up to 40 miles per hour. Critics claim that exposed riders are whizzing through traffic and crowded throughways on a flimsy yet heavy device. A quiet electric motor powering a speedy scooter down a sidewalk poses an even greater danger to pedestrians with any sight or mobility impairments. E-scooter accidents are now common in the U.K., California, Paris, and other major metro tourist destinations.

The micro-mobility movement may be here to stay. Several companies are using AI to create smarter devices and major cities worldwide are looking for better options. Where to ride these better options is another question in itself, and not all cities agree. Ultimately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggested that e-scooter riders may be safer on the sidewalk than on the road. In contrast, a recent Washington, D.C., study shows that 60% of e-scooter riders are injured on the sidewalk.

There is no uniform legislation governing e-scooters just yet. They are very popular among tourists interested in exploring a new city they may be unfamiliar with. This is usually an impulse purchase often shared with another rider and typically without helmets because they were not available or pre-planned. Rental e-scooters are especially popular in dense urban tourist destinations where traffic and congestion are the norms. Improperly parked e-scooters have also been contributing to pedestrian injuries and deaths.

The Data on E-scooters

Thousands are injured and dozens die in e-scooter-related accidents around the world each year. Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined that riders on e-scooters sustained more injuries per mile than cyclists and were twice as likely to be injured by collisions with lamp posts and signposts, cracks in the pavement, and potholes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission linked e-scooters to 50,000 emergency room visits and 27 deaths between 2017 and 2019.

E-scooters Abroad

Four times as many pedestrians in the U.K. were injured from e-scooter accidents in 2021 than the previous year. The Department of Transport totaled over 220 injured and over 60 seriously injured pedestrians. In 2020, the U.K. had less than 60 injuries and less than 15 serious injuries involving e-scooters.

More than 1,000 people in the U.K. were injured in e-scooter accidents in 2021, including over 300 who were seriously injured. The data was released weeks before the government announced plans for new legislation governing e-scooters. Rental e-scooters were recently legalized and set up in towns and cities across London.

France and Spain have already banned e-scooters from pedestrian walkways and sidewalks. Paris considered banishing them outright after a young woman was knocked down and killed by an e-scooter in June of 2021. Trauma doctors in Finland also called for a ban after linking e-scooters to a rise in emergency room visits that same summer.

UCLA Study on E-scooters

A recent UCLA study found that the injuries associated with e-scooters outpace other modes of motorized transportation. Researchers studied over 1,300 e-scooter-related accidents involving riders and pedestrians occurring between 2014 and 2020. Researchers determined that e-scooters caused 115 injuries per million trips. For comparison, the national injury rate for cars is eight injuries per million trips. The injury rate for bicycles is 15 per million trips, and the injury rate for motorcycles is 104 injuries per million trips.

A UCLA professor of medicine and member of the research team was set back by the injury rate of e-scooter accidents, which outpaced the injury rate for motorcycle crashes. She determined that the ease of public access to on-demand rideshare e-scooters with safety regulations still in infancy means it’s likely that cities, health care operators, and e-scooter operators will see a significant number of injuries each year.

Most of the injuries researched in the UCLA study were minor, but many ended up in the hospital, several ended up in the intensive care unit, and two people died. Recently a man sued the city of Los Angeles claiming a broken sidewalk caused the e-scooter accident that left him paralyzed. Injuries are more likely with e-scooters in the road or crossing through intersections. The study found several pedestrians were hit by e-scooters or injured by tripping over stationary e-scooters.

Problems With E-scooters

According to Safe Walkways, a special interest group focused on e-scooters, the dockless motor devices are often staged in a way that creates obstacles or tripping hazards for pedestrians. Aside from being hit or killed by an e-scooter, many pedestrians may be traumatized by the near-misses that leave them afraid to walk their normal route again. The group of e-scooter riders is also harder to educate than locals because of the high turnover nature innate to the tourism industry.

For the most part, the rental companies pose a greater threat to pedestrians than the private e-scooter owner. The e-scooters are often staged on the sidewalk by the rental companies or the riders. Aside from the disabled, these sidewalk obstructions can be a serious problem for the elderly. The heavy base can make these scooters awkward and difficult to move. The scooter’s base pivots at the ankle, creating an additional hazard for anyone in the nearby vicinity.

The “leave them anywhere” attitude created and endorsed by the rental companies encourages riders to leave e-scooters strewn about near the dock, outside of store entrances, or anywhere else that’s convenient. This culture is now worldwide, whether it is legal for riders to do so or not. What is clear, is that it is resulting in pedestrians being injured. Some say the solution may be to move the rental companies out to the street. The hope is that it would make it clear to riders that the sidewalk is not for parking e-scooters.

The concept of sharing rides on e-scooters may also be endangering the safety of pedestrians. E-scooter riders are sharing in the joy and disregarding the responsibility factor of the ride. The idea that it is someone else’s problem seems to be another critique on the e-scooter ride culture. Hopefully, this is more about the infancy of the industry than the nature of the business.

Legal Assistance for an E-scooter Traffic Accident

If you’ve been involved in an e-scooter accident or lost a loved one in an e-scooter wreck, a motor vehicle accident lawyer may be able to help. Rebenack, Aronow, and Mascolo, L.L.P. is a New Jersey litigation firm focused on personal injury cases. E-scooter crash victims in need of a motor vehicle accident lawyer can contact RAM Law by phone at (732) 394-1549.

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