BOSTON — Electrical scooters, or e-scooters, have already taken off in Brookline and more programs are likely coming to the area soon. But Boston 25 News uncovered data on soaring emergency room visits, in cities where these rides are already popular.
"Lot of hand injuries. A lot of fractures to the forearm. Head injuries are also very prevalent," said Paul Hughes, EMS coordinator at South Shore Health.
Brookline launched Massachusetts' first e-scooter pilot program in early April. Scooter-sharing companies Lime and Bird deployed 200 dockless scooters around town.
One rider was taken away by ambulance shortly after the launch.
When told of the development that day, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh commented to reporters, "I mean they're dangerous."
But the City of Boston is still taking a close look at the e-scooters. In late April, the city held a scooter demo day at City Hall Plaza with e-scooter representatives.
As Boston 25 News began looking into scooter safety, we found study after study that raised concerns.
Just days ago, the CDC issued a report on serious injuries related to e-scooter use. The CDC found head injuries were common among emergency room visits linked to scooter use, and 15% of those resulted in traumatic brain injury.
Consumer Reports surveyed major hospitals and police departments in 47 cities where Bird oR Lime operate. They estimated 1,500 people have been injured in e-scooter-related crashes since late 2017.
That's consistent with findings just out this year from the medical journal "JAMA Network Open."
The journal looked at data from two Los Angeles-area emergency rooms over a two-year period. It found more people were injured while riding e-scooters than riding bicycles and walking. Most of the injuries were severe. About 30% of the nearly 250 injuries were fractures and a little more than 40% were head injuries.
"They're operating with an I-phone in one hand and steering on the other and falling off," Hughes said.
The EMS coordinator's biggest concerns are riders not wearing helmets, which is required, and riders remaining visible in traffic since they are not allowed on sidewalks.
The CDC report found less than 1% of people injured on e-scooters were wearing helmets.
"Our balance isn't quite as good as when we are 10 or 12, so balance is a big issue on those things and I'm not sure people really appreciate that," Hughes added.
Currently, most electric scooters are illegal in Massachusetts. They're regulated more like mopeds because they don't have brake and blinker lights. But in January, Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill that exempts e-scooters from that law. If it passes, they would be classified as bikes.
Right now, Brookline is the only town in Massachusetts that allows electric scooters. Their pilot program runs until November.
Both e-scooter companies, Bird and Lime, say safety is of upmost importance. Bird shared its own safety report with Boston 25 News.
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