Those rentable e-scooters that are popping up across America look fun, convenient, and inexpensive, at a dollar a minute and less after that. But as the scooters' popularity rises, so do rider visits to the ER. At least seven people in the United States have been killed on e-scooters, and thousands more have been hurt. Now, emergency personnel are sending out an alarm.
Last summer, Tim Belda crashed his e-scooter to avoid hitting his buddy.
"My foot just took all of the pressure and broke my leg, broke my ankle, and broke part of my foot," explained Tim.
After two surgeries and physical therapy, Tim does yoga to stretch injured ligaments and tendons.
Trauma doctor Vishal Bansal sees cases like Tim's several times a week at Scripps Mercy Hospital.
"The vast majority of these scooter injuries are orthopedic or brain injury. The brain injury can be anything from a mild concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury where they're in the hospital or ICU for weeks and weeks and weeks," shared Vishal Bansal, MD, FACS, Chief of Trauma, Scripps Mercy Hospital.
Riders aren't the only ones getting hurt.
Ashley DeLaHunt, RN, Trauma Nurse Team Leader, Scripps Mercy Hospital said, "He didn't know the scooter was coming, you can't hear them, and it hit him and he fell and broke his arm and hit his head and ended up with significant injuries."
Dr. Bansal says most of the injured are male, riding at night, without helmets, and are intoxicated. He's dismayed the California legislature just scrapped a helmet law, ignoring 30 years of injury prevention research.
"We've taken all that data, all that knowledge, all the hours and hours of taking care of these patients and throw them away," exclaimed Dr. Bansal.
He and Tim are concerned riders don't take electric scooters seriously enough.
"It looks like a toy, it's really not a toy. You know, it's a motorized vehicle and should be treated as such," stated Tim.
The first study on serious scooter injuries in the Journal of the American Medical Association's network open showed 40 percent were head trauma and 32 percent were bone fractures. Now, Scripps Mercy Hospital is joining UC San Diego, UCLA, the University of Texas and other institutions to study patterns and demographics of e-scooter accidents. They hope to be published in three to six months. The two largest e-scooter companies, Lime and Bird, are trying to boost safety by offering free helmets you can order.
Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.
Health Watch: 911 on Scooter Danger