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E-Scooter Injuries 'Common,' Sometimes 'Severe,' UCLA Study Finds


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January 25, 2019 -- Some 40 percent of e-scooter riders admitted to UCLA Medical Center emergency rooms in Santa Monica and Westwood suffered head injuries and nearly a third broke a bone, according to a pioneering report released Friday.

Published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)," the UCLA study surveyed 249 patients admitted to ER at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica between September 2017, when e-scooters first appeared in the beach city, and August 2018.

"In this study," researchers wrote, "injuries associated with electric scooter use were common, ranged in severity, and suggest low rates of adherence to existing regulations around rider age and low rates of helmet use."

Of the patients surveyed, 228 (91.6 percent) were riders and 21 (8.4 percent) were pedestrians; most of the hospital visits (56.6 percent) took place between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to the study.

Of the 249 e-scooter riders presented to the emergency department, 183 (80.2 percent) were injured in a fall, 25 (11 percent) in a collision with an object and 20 (8.8) percent were hit by a moving vehicle.

Among 21 pedestrians injured, 11 were hit by a scooter, 5 tripped over a parked scooter and 5 were "attempting to lift or carry a scooter not in use," the study found.

Researchers also found that only 4.4 percent of the injured riders were documented wearing a helmet, which was required under California law during the study period. (On January 1, a new State law made helmet use optional for electric scooter riders older than 18.)

Of the injured riders, 10.8 percent were younger than 18, despite company rental agreements that require riders to be at least that age and a state law that requires them to be at least 16.

"This suggests that current self-enforced regulations imposed by private electric scooter companies may be inadequate," the report said.

While most of the injuries documented were minor, researchers said, some were "severe and costly," with 6 percent of ER patients admitted to the hospital, and 0.8 percent admitted to the intensive care unit.

The number of injuries related to e-scooters are likely higher than the incidents reported and will likely rise with he growing popularity of the vehicles, the study found.

Researchers noted that they excluded 74 encounters where e-scooters were "suspected" of having caused the injuries. The study also did not include outpatient visits to urgent care or primary care clinics for minor injuries.

"Additionally, scooter use and availability rapidly increased toward the end of our study period, evidenced by the fact that most associated injuries occurred during the later months of the study," researchers said.

"We were also unable to evaluate the geographic and urban planning factors influencing the incidence and severity of these injuries."

Policymakers should "seriously" consider public health impacts, the report said.

"This rapidly expanding technology is a disruptive force in short-distance transportation, and policy makers seeking to understand associated risks and appropriate regulatory responses should seriously consider its effects on public health," researchers said.

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