Posted By The Law Offices of Eugene G. Bruno, P.C. Posted in: Personal Injury.
If you have been reading Consumer Reports over the past few months, you know that they have investigated the prevalence of serious injuries resulting from accidents on electric scooters, such as Bird and Lime (the two largest e-scooter ride share companies). CR’s investigation found that more than 1,500 people have been injured in e-scooter crashes since late 2017. Data from Bird and Lime, however, suggests a much lower number. Are Bird and Lime intentionally reporting lower numbers in order to gain access to more and more markets across the US?
In some cases, these companies must submit injury data as part of their applications to operate in some cities. However, neither company appears to maintain a comprehensive data base of reported scooter crashes across the multiple US markets in which they operate. Given the huge discrepancy in the number of injuries found by CR versus the number of injuries reported by these companies, some may wonder whether the data reported by these companies is accurate and whether the companies are being transparent with the public in terms of the risks associated with allowing these scooters on our public roads.
CR reports that it conducted a survey of 110 hospitals and five public health agencies in 47 US cities where at least one of the two biggest e-scooter companies, Bird or Lime, operates. CR found an estimated 1,500 people across the country injured in e-scooter-related crashes since late 2017. These included serious injuries such as broken bones, fractures, blunt force injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries. These are serious, even potentially life altering, injuries. Also, there have been a few fatalities reported and the number of those injured and killed in e-scooter crashes will continue to rise. In addition to CR’s analysis, other studies offer further insight into the scope of this problem. A report published in January by the Portland Transportation Bureau found that 176 people had been injured in e-scooter crashes during the city’s pilot program and a recent study by UCLA researchers reported that 249 people were treated at two LA area hospitals for injuries resulting from e-scooter crashes.
The decision to jump on a scooter is often a split second decision. These companies’ business model appear to be built on such spur of the moment decisions. Anyone with a smart phone can rent a scooter from where ever the last rider left it, often on a sidewalk or the side of the road. But this split second decision can have life altering consequences. These companies do not provide helmets with their scooters, which means the rider’s split second decision could in fact be putting him or her in serious danger of injury. Are Bird and Lime encouraging reckless and dangerous decisions by making it too easy for riders to rent scooters? Should Bird and Lime provide helmets or, at least, warn potential riders of the danger of riding without a helmet?
Unfortunately, most cities where these companies operate have no laws or regulations in place to deal with the relatively new phenomenon of ride share e-scooters. E-scooters have been welcome in some cities in need of transportation options. They are a green and affordable transportation option, but at what cost in terms of safety? There should be discussion and debate about where e-scooters should be allowed to operate, whether riders should be required to wear helmets or whether ride share companies should be required to provide helmets or warn potential riders of the danger of riding without one. Whatever the benefits of e-scooters in terms of reducing vehicle traffic and offering green transportation options, are those benefits outweighed by the risk in terms of public safety?
A new California law went into effect recently eliminated the state’s helmet requirement for e-scooter riders over age 18. Not surprisingly, Bird supported the law because it is good for their business model. Is it good for the public?