Electric Scooters in Lisbon

Electric Scooters: A Deadly Menace?

The scooters have no doubt enthralled and enraged us in equal measure. Yes, they nip you from one place to another in no time at all, but they clog up sidewalks and bike paths more than even BMWs. Our opinions on their place in the city aside, with the Polícia de Segurança Pública cracking down and council ultimatums being issued, we are forced to ask ourselves: could they be dangerous?

Luckily, some academics in America answered this question with their paper, Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use. A thrilling read? No. Life changing? No. But it does lay to rest many of the questions that have been raised by incidents such as drunk-driving arrests and hefty fines for helmetless riders.

The study was of electric scooter injuries in Santa Monica, California, and looked at two emergency rooms between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018. During this time, 249 patients entered with injuries associated with standing electric scooters — 21 of whom were “nonriders.” Of those injured, only 4.4% had been wearing a helmet, which somewhat accounts for the most common complaint being a head injury. This seems to fit with a separate part of the same study, in which they observed local riders, where 94.3% of those using a scooter didn’t have a helmet.

Of those who went to an emergency room, 4.8% had a blood alcohol level above 0.05% or were thought to be intoxicated by the attending physician. While this isn’t necessarily considered “drunk” (that would be 0.08% in the USA), it still means they weren’t exactly at the top of their game.

The severity of the injuries varied, but a whopping 94% of patients were sent home from the emergency room. In fact, only 15 patients in the entire study were admitted, two of whom ended up in intensive care.

So, that raises the question, is this significant?

A post hoc analysis of other transport-related injuries found that there were 195 bicyclist injuries and 181 pedestrian injuries during the same period, which would suggest that the 249 caused by scooters is fairly high. And, according to the researchers, “policymakers… should seriously consider its effects on public health.”

Of course, that said, we have no idea how many scooter rides took place compared with those who walked, cycled, drove or took public transport. It could be that scooters cause more injuries than bikes, but if it is only 249 injuries out of hundreds of thousands of rides, then it really isn’t that many.

Translating this to Portugal, the stats could be vastly different. What we do know so far is that, according to the PSP, 2018 saw two deaths, 40 serious injuries, and 908 minor injuries attributed to bicycle and scooter accidents. This is a reduction of one, 12, and seven respectively when compared with 2017. That said, there was a 54% increase in accidents last year, even if injuries were down. With the rapid proliferation of stand-up electric scooters that Lisbon is experiencing, we could well see this trend continue. And, with scooters seeming to land people in the emergency room more frequently than bikes, we could see a hike in the number of injuries too.

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