Report reveals high rates of e-scooter injuries

| Staff Reporter

A Washington University report on injuries associated with electronic scooters found that e-scooter injuries occur every three days. One out of every eight of those injuries results in a visit to the emergency room.

The purpose of the report, conducted by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Environmental Health and Safety Bruce Backus, Executive Director of the Habif Health & Wellness Center Dr. Cheri LeBlanc and Professor of Emergency Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine Dr. Larry Lewis, “is to provide user guidelines based on our experience of treating scores of scooter-related injuries over the past year and a half.”

E-scooters were first introduced to St. Louis in the summer of 2018 as an inexpensive and clean alternative for traveling short distances. According to the report, there have been a total of 421,104 rides in St. Louis City from May to September 2019. Of that, 107,346 rides were on or near the University’s campus.

Over the past 18 months, the Barnes-Jewish Emergency Department has seen 133 patients with scooter-related injuries. Serious injuries have included 39 extremity fractures, 8 facial fractures and 13 head injuries. The head injuries ranged from concussion to intracranial hemorrhage.

According to Backus, 40.4% of emergency room visits resulting from scooter-related injuries involve fractures and arms, legs, face or head injuries. 3% of visitors suffer from permanent brain damage.

25% of the e-scooter related cases seen at the emergency room involved alcohol or some other judgment impairing substance.

At the University, there were 28 reported e-scooter related injuries on the Danforth campus or the surrounding area requiring medical care between June and November 2019. 25 of those injuries occurred between Aug. 15 and Oct. 28.

According to Emergency Support Team (EST) Field Director senior Miriam Applbaum, EST has responded to calls about e-scooter injuries.

“In terms of severity of the injuries, I would say that they range from minor scrapes and bruises to more serious injuries,” Applbaum wrote in a statement to Student Life.
In their findings, Backus, Lewis and LeBlanc cited the most common reasons behind serious scooter-related accidents citywide as road surface conditions, obstacles and operator inexperience. The most common causes for accidents on or near the University’s campus were losing balance from riding scooters too fast, often downhill, and running into obstacles.
To reduce the risk of injuries, Backus, Lewis and LeBlanc proposed four guidelines for e-scooter operators to follow:

“Ride only in proper designated areas; Become familiar with the operations of the scooter; Do not exceed a speed at which you can comfortably stop or avoid obstacles in your path…; Slow down in congested areas, and dismount in heavily congested areas,” the guidelines said.

Backus said their goal is not to discourage e-scooter use, but rather to encourage people to take proper safety precautions when using the scooters and keep their environment in mind.

Earlier this semester, Washington University implemented a new policy to restrict the use of scooters and other motorized forms of transportation through the heart of campus.

“We’re still seeing significant challenges with people not being aware of the request to not operate the scooters in certain locations,” Backus said. “My biggest concern right now is simply the students dropping the scooters off along the walkways and the sidewalks and blocking ADA access to our buildings.”

Applbaum noted an encouraging trend in the number of e-scooter injuries EST has been responding to.
“I do think overall we are seeing less Bird scooter-related calls, although we do still see them a decent amount,” Applbaum wrote.
According to Backus, there have been reports of incidents where scooters have blocked the paths of students with disabilities. In one case, a blind student’s pathway was blocked by scooters left on the sidewalk. In another case, the path of a student in a wheelchair was also blocked by a scooter left at the top of a ramp.

Backus said that he would like students to think of their peers when using e-scooters.

“I know we’re a very caring community here and we want to help support one another,” Backus said. “I just ask that people respect their fellow students, please park the scooters in the bicycle rack areas off the sidewalks, keep them out of the areas that we ask be kept free. I think it’ll help everybody here.”

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