The electric scooters making headway into Gilbert and the rest of the East Valley have been linked to fractures, sprains, bruises and abrasions – and even death.
Doctors are dealing with the fallout from the popularity of the two-wheel rentals that can go as fast as 15 mph. Roll-out of these ubiquitous scooters started in 2017.
“At Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa, we see electric scooter-related injuries in the emergency department fairly regularly, about two per month,” said Corey Schubert, a Banner Health spokesman.
“At Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, an ER doc said he has personally treated two cases in the last couple of months. The injuries weren’t major; one involved a sprained ankle and another involved abrasions and contusions.”
At Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa recently, an emergency-room doctor treated three cases in one day, according to Shubert.
“I think we’ve seen a little bit of everything, from road rash to fracture and, of course, head injuries,” said Tracey Fejt, a registered nurse and Banner’s injury-prevention coordinator. “At Banner Baywood, I’ve seen one where someone ran into a wall. None of them wear any safety gear.”
The Banner cases involved all age groups and likely included pedestrians, according to Fejt.
“Lot of the problems I see while driving around the Tempe and Mesa areas is lot ride on the sidewalks and don’t obey the rules of the road such as stopping at intersections like they should,” Fejt said.
She’s also seeing riders wearing headphones and ear buds when they should be paying attention to their surroundings.
“Their headphones should be off and I’ve seen some carrying a cup of coffee,” she added. “They need two hands on the steering.”
She’s also heard stories of people drinking alcohol and then attempting to ride the scooters.
“They should not be drunk when riding them,” she said.
Fejt surmised people are getting injured because they think riding a scooter is so easy that anybody can do it, and that might not be the case.
People don’t realize it takes time to get used to a scooter’s acceleration and brakes and get thrown off it, she said, adding she’s seen riders wearing inappropriate shoes such as flip-flops.
The scooter companies do list safety tips on their website, such as wearing helmets and obeying traffic laws. The California company Bird, which requires people to be at least 18, even offers free helmets to active users if they cover the shipping costs.
The scooters are not only populating cities across the country but around the world with reported injuries and deaths.
In September, a scooter rider was reportedly killed after he collided with a vehicle in Washington, D.C. and earlier that month, a 24-year-old Dallas man died after he supposedly fell off a scooter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is doing a first-ever study in Austin, Texas, looking at injuries involving dockless electric scooters after it was asked to by Austin Public Health, according to Courtney Lenard, a CDC spokeswoman.
“In the past few months, Austin Public Health has repeatedly heard of injuries related to use of electric scooters,” said Jeffery Taylor, senior epidemiologist with Austin Public Health. “This study will assist Austin Public Health in quantifying the frequency of occurrence and the severity of the injuries.”
He said the department asked for CDC’s help because the agency staff has experience in developing questionnaires for patient interviews, creating a database to manage the information collected from the interviews and performing data analysis.
The goals of this study are to describe the epidemiology such as person, place, time and circumstances of injuries related to the use of dockless electric scooters, Taylor said.
The study also will provide recommendations on surveillance and prevention of injuries associated with the use of these scooters, he added.
And that study’s findings could potentially help other communities seeing an increase in injuries.
Fejt said in areas of the Valley where there are more scooters, hospitals are seeing more problems.
“People don’t realize scooters can go up to 15 mph,” she said. “Fifteen miles per hour in a car when surrounded by metal is nothing. But when you are on a scooter going 15 mph with no seat belt, no airbags, when you are going to get thrown is when your scooter stops and you are still going 15 mph until whatever stops you, and most likely it’s the sidewalk.”