Electric scooters are treated as ‘toys’ despite reaching speeds of up to 30mph

Electric scooters are being treated as ‘toys’ despite them reaching speeds of up to 30mph (48km/h), scientists have warned.

Around 32,000 people are thought to have been hospitalised in the US over the last nine years because they hurt themselves using the gadgets.

The number of injuries is thought to have almost tripled from an estimated 2,325 in 2008 to 6,947 in 2017, as they increased in popularity. 

And the scientists fear desire for environmentally friendly ways of getting about will cause these ‘morbid’ injuries to rise. 

Scientists have warned electric scooters reach speeds up to 30mph (48km/h) (stock image)

Scientists have warned electric scooters reach speeds up to 30mph (48km/h) (stock image)

The most common injuries include bleeding, bruising and concussions – but facial fractures and concussions were recorded.  

The research was carried out by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and led by Dr Amishav Bresler, of the department of otolaryngology. 

Electric scooters have risen in popularity over the past decade, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Otolaryngology.

They suggested this was because people are seeking more environmentally friendly ways to travel.

However, a lack of regulation has led to concerns over the safety of the motorised mode of transport.

To uncover the risks, the researchers analysed a database of injuries to the face and skull that occurred due to scooters at 100 hospitals.

Results revealed 990 craniofacial injuries were recorded between 2008 and 2017 across 100 hospitals. 

Most of the patients were male (62.1 per cent) and aged six-to-12 (33.3 per cent). 

From this data, the researchers extrapolated there would have been around 32,000 electric scooter-related hospitalisations across the US over those nine years. 

DO HELMETS HAVE TO BE WORN BY LAW? 

Helmet laws vary between states.

When it comes to motorcycles, only Indiana and Iowa have no legislation that requires adults wear the protective headgear.

States that mandate helmet use are:

  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas 
  • California
  • Georgia  
  • Louisiana 
  • Maryland 
  • Massachusetts  
  • Mississippi  
  • Missouri 
  • Nebraska 
  • Nevada 
  • New Hampshire  
  • New Jersey 
  • New York 
  • North Carolina 
  • Oregon 
  • Tennessee 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia  
  • Washington  
  • Washington DC 
  • West Virginia 

The remaining states have different laws depending on the rider’s age.

Laws also vary state-to-state when it comes to electric scooters.

The District of Columbia, for example, classes electric scooters as ‘personal mobility devices’ and therefore does not have strict laws.

But New Jersey believes they carry the same risks as bicycles and mandates helmets for those under 17.   

UK law only enforces helmets for motorcycles and mopeds that are being driven on roads. 

‘Children use motorised scooters marketed as toys, but in reality, certain models can reach speeds of almost 30 miles per hour (48kph),’ Dr Bresler said. 

The most common trauma (36.1 per cent) was closed head injuries, which affect the brain but do not open up the skull. These can include bleeding, bruising and concussions. 

This was followed by deep cuts or tears to the skin (20.5 per cent). Facial fractures only occurred in 5.2 per cent of cases. 

‘The incidence of motorized scooter related craniofacial trauma is rising, resulting in thousands of ED visits annually,’ the researchers wrote. 

‘Many patients are experiencing morbid traumatic injuries.’

Only some of the reports mentioned whether the patients wore protective clothing. 

Of those that did, 66 per cent of the patients failed to wear a helmet. Helmet use did, however, rise with age. 

Just 19 per cent of the injured toddlers had worn the protective headgear compared to 67 per cent of the seniors. 

Each US state has different helmet laws. The District of Columbia, for example, classes electric scooters as ‘personal mobility devices’ and therefore does not have strict laws.

But New Jersey believes motorised scooters carry the same risks as bicycles and mandates helmets for those under 17.   

Dr Bresler said in a statement: ‘The US should standardise electric scooter laws and license requirements should be considered to decrease the risky behaviors associated with motorised scooter use. 

‘In 2000, Italy implemented a law mandating helmet use for all types of recreational scooter drivers – legislation that reduced head trauma in scooter riders from about 27 out of 10,000 people before the law passed to about nine out of 10,000.’  

UK law only enforces helmets for motorcycles and mopeds that are being driven on roads. 

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