Ride sharing in the form of vehicles, bicycles, and now electric scooters, are transforming urban transit systems. While these cost-effective and environmentally friendly transportation options have their benefits, safety concerns associated with the use of electric rental scooters are on the rise. In fact, the first death involving an electric rental scooter occurred in Dallas recently. The rider was not wearing a helmet.
With an estimated 65,000 electric rental scooters punctuating the streets of the United States, doctors and emergency room personnel have seen a spike in scooter-related accidents. Many of the injuries have been severe, including head traumas. In Salt Lake City, Utah, a hospital says it has seen a 161 percent increase in the number of visits due to scooters compared to a three-month period a year ago. Electric scooters have been on streets there since June 2018.
The death in Dallas, which was ruled an accident, comes on the heels of a bill signed by California Governor Jerry Brown that both legalizes riding electric scooters without a helmet and increases the speed limit on scooters. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 28 states have motorcycle laws that require only some riders to wear helmets, while three states have no helmet laws at all. Virginia and Washington, D.C. both have laws requiring all riders – including operators and passengers – to wear helmets on motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, and other two-wheeled transportation.
Critics of scooter programs say the transportation method gives users a false sense of security. The scooters often do not have to comply with safety regulations of other motorized transportation, yet hold the same dangers. In addition, operating companies are still figuring out how to provide ongoing maintenance. Although localized teams hired by scooter rental companies such as Lime and Bird perform regular maintenance on their companies’ fleets, the companies rely heavily on riders to flag and report issues. Oftentimes those reports come too late, and those mechanical issues, such as faulty brakes and sticky accelerators, have already led to injury.
In addition, riders are required to sign an agreement when they register to rent a scooter. The agreement states that injured riders cannot file a lawsuit. Two of the biggest companies, Bird and Lime, also require binding arbitration. This means that, should you be injured in an e-scooter accident, you cannot take your case to court. Instead, it must be decided by a third-party arbitrator whose decision is final. Although arbitration may be faster than courtroom litigation, arbitration decisions cannot typically be appealed. [See more on arbitration here.]
You may have noticed that Bird scooters launched in Richmond, VA over the summer without prior notice to City officials. While the mayor subsequently banned the launch due to violations of city code, he is now seeking approval for a one year pilot program. Mayor Levar Stoney said, “Richmond will do this the right way. We will implement a legal and appropriate dockless scooter and bicycle program with proper safety regulations to protect scooter users, pedestrians and other citizens.”
How to Use an E-Scooter Safely
If you choose to ride on e-scooters, whether you own one or are using a rental, there are ways you can help protect yourself and others:
- Wear protective gear such as a helmet and other padding.
- Treat the scooter as you would any other version of motorized transportation.
- If you see or encounter a problem with your e-scooter, please make sure you report it to the company right away to prevent future injury.
If you have questions or concerns regarding electric rental scooters, or have been injured in a rental scooter accident, please contact us for more information.