- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2019

Nearly half of hospitalizations studied involving injuries sustained on standing electric motorized scooters related to riders who were legally drunk, researchers said Thursday.

Published online in Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open, the study sought to identify trends among injuries reported by e-scooter riders as the vehicles become increasingly common.

“We found very few patients wearing helmets while riding eScooters and the majority of patients were intoxicated on alcohol or other illicit substances,” the study concluded.

Led by Leslie Kobayashi, an associate professor of clinical surgery at the University of California, San Diego, the study involved scouring data from three trauma centers for information on injuries related to the operation of e-scooters: an increasingly popular mode of transportation that can be rented from companies operating in dozens of U.S. cities.

Researchers said they found a total of 103 patients who were admitted to either of the trauma centers for scooter-related injuries between September 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018.

Seventy-nine percent of the patients were tested for alcohol at the time of admission, according to the study. Among those tested, 48% had blood alcohol levels beyond the .08 legal limit for operating a motor vehicle, its authors wrote.

Sixty percent of the 103 patients were also screened for drugs, of which 52% tested positive, the study said. Marijuana, methamphetamine and amphetamine were the most common substances found during tests of those patients, the study said.

Helmet information was only available for 98 of the 103 patients, the researchers noted. Of the 98 patients studied, only two were wearing a helmet, according to the report.

“Interventions aimed at increasing helmet use and discouraging eScooter operation while intoxicated are necessary to reduce the burden of eScooter-related trauma,” the researchers wrote.

“E-scooters may look like fun and games, but it’s a vehicle. It’s a motor attached to wheels, and you need to have a healthy respect for it. Anyone drinking or using any mind-altering substance should not be operating an e-scooter,” added the study’s lead author, HealthDay News reported.

Companies including Bird and Lime launched mobile phone apps in late 2017 that allow users to rent standing electric motorized scooters for mere cents per minute. Started in southern California, each of the companies has expanded operations in the last two years to more than 100 cities in the U.S. and abroad, facilitating a combined 36 million rides and counting, the study noted.

“The safety of our riders and of those in the communities in which Bird is available is of paramount importance to us,” a Bird spokesperson said in an email to The Washington Times. “The rules of the road, apply to everyone — whether behind the wheel, walking, cycling or on a scooter. We go to great lengths to educate and inform riders about the dangers of distracted riding, including riding under the influence, as well as educating them on how to identify drivers who might be operating cars under the influence.”

“Safety is our top priority at Lime. That’s why every day we’re innovating on technology, infrastructure and education to set the standard for micromobility safety,” Lime said in a statement. “We appreciate the attention on this very important issue, and we look forward to working with the industry, medical community and regulators to create a healthy ecosystem for this new and evolving technology.”

The results of a separate study conducted in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention previously found that e-scooter riders have reported injuries at a rate of 14.3 per 100,000 trips, adding that a high proportion of the injuries involved “potentially preventable risk factors,” including specifically not wearing a helmet in many cases. 

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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