Over 1,500 e-scooter injuries have occurred in the United States since 2017, according to Consumer Reports. Those injuries were the results of crashes on e-scooters in 47 cities polled by Consumer Reports. The cities were chosen based on whether at least one of the two biggest scooter companies, Bird or Lime, operated. CR contacted 110 hospitals and five public agencies, such as police departments, in those cities to obtain the 1,500-injury figure:
Several doctors at trauma centers told CR they’ve been treating serious injuries related to e-scooters since the ride-share fleets started showing up on some city streets about a year and a half ago. For example, the emergency chief at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta estimated the emergency department has treated 360 people with injuries. Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville has seen 250 people with injuries, according to the Medical Director of the Trauma ICU.
“We’ve had multiple concussions, nasal fractures, bilateral forearm fractures, and some people have required surgery,” says Beth Rupp, medical director at the Indiana University Health Center, in Bloomington, Ind., where ride-share e-scooters were introduced in September.
The injuries are far higher than what Bird and Lime have reported in the past. The two companies had to submit safety incidents for all markets they operate in to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. CR obtained the incident reports through a public records request, even though Bird and Lime had tried to keep the records private, arguing they contained trade secrets:
At the time, Bird operated in 22 markets; Lime, in more than 60, including some of those where it offers bicycles for rent.
Of the reported injuries, 411 were reported by Bird and 59 by Lime. The applications also note how many accidents involved people with disabillities: Lime reported none; Bird tallied 7. The filings underscore the difficulty regulators and researchers may face in trying to track injuries.
When comparing the official reported safety incidents with CR’s tally, it’s apparent e-scooter companies aren’t being made aware of the majority of the accidents that happen involving scooters. The biggest safety issues doctors seem to be concerned about when it comes to e-scooter accidents is the lack of riders wearing helmets. After all, a broken arm is relatively easy to fix compared to serious head trauma.
For its part, Lime says it has distributed 75,000 free helmets to riders around the world, and Bird says it’s given away more than 65,000 free helmets. The problem is many riders don’t seem to be wearing them–and despite Bird giving away 65,000 helmets, the company openly supported a new California law that eliminated the state’s helmet requirement for e-scooter riders older than 18.
But even if regulations dictated riders must wear helmets on e-scooters, the simple fact of the matter is most riders don’t carry a helmet with them. To address this issue, researchers have suggested e-scooter companies operate helmet kiosks in high-traffic areas or team up with hotels where an e-scooter rider could go in to get a loaner helmet for free.
Update: Bird has provided us with this comment from Paul Steely White, Bird’s director of safety policy and advocacy:
“Making communities more livable for all is our mission at Bird. We are proud to provide a transportation alternative that gets people out of cars — not only to reduce car related fatalities, but to be part of a climate solution that will move cities forward into a safer, smarter future for all. We commend individuals and third parties who take on the task of exploring and examining the growing impact of e-scooters in communities and incorporate key learnings into our policies and products. Meaningful research also serves as an important contextual reminder that the most dangerous part of any transportation landscape are the cars that continue to dominate our streets.
“The reporting of shared e-scooter injury data lacks important context necessary to appreciate the issue of transportation safety — the number of injuries reported thus far would amount to less than a fraction of one percent of the total number of e-scooter rides taken worldwide. Driving is much deadlier for everyone, as evidenced by the 6,000 pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2017. Worldwide, car crashes kill more than one million people each year. And for every person cars kill on impact, many more lives will be cut short in due part to their devastating impact on our climate.”