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CDC report: Nearly half of e-scooter riders in safety study had serious injuries

Large percentage of incidents were “potentially preventable,” says national agency

Man with phone standing by Lime scooters on sidewalk
Scooters in Austin
Courtesy of Lime

A three-month study of Austin e-scooter injuries found that almost half of them were “serious,” according to a Tuesday KXAN story, with a significant percentage involving head trauma.

The report also “concluded that a high proportion of scooter-related injuries involved potentially preventable risk factors,” according to KXAN.

Conducted by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conjunction with Austin Public Health, the study tracked incidents that took place from September 5 to November 4 last year. It was the first in the nation to involve interviewing riders to gain insight into the causes and possible prevention of their injuries.

The 190 riders studied included 160 with confirmed scooter-related injuries and 32 others in which scooters were involved (including one to a pedestrian and one to a cyclist, which were apparently excluded), according to a Wednesday Austin American-Statesman story.

Health officials identified the injuries to 80 people in the study as “serious,” with 48 percent incurring trauma such as fractures, lacerations, and abrasions to the head. More than a third of the 190 riders in the study had a bone broken, and six had fractures involving the head. In addition, 70 percent had injuries to the wrists, hands, arms, or shoulders, and 55 percent had injuries to the legs, knees, ankles, or feet.

Of the 20 percent who were hospitalized, 45 percent had head injuries, 27 percent had upper-body fractures, and 12 percent had lower-body fractures. Less than one percent of injured riders in the study reported wearing a helmet.

Streets were the most common place for crashes involving injuries included in the study, followed by sidewalks. Some occurred in parking lots, garages, and car-free pathways. Nearly a third of the crashes were in the Downtown area, with an average of about two crashes per day during the study period.

The report urged “interventions aimed at these risks” and cited other actions that could “potentially reduce injury incidence and severity,” such as more education of first-time riders, more messaging about scooter safety, and, more wearing of helmets. Authors also appealed to city leaders to track scooter-related injuries and improve their methods of doing so.

Austin officials will hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the CDC study. The Austin City Council is in the process of hammering out specific regulations for micromobility in the city; after postponing discussion of a proposal that is essentially an update of an existing bicycle ordinance in March, the council will take up the matter again this month and has set a May 23 deadline for its vote.