Two things: One, those two-wheeled self-balancing teen transporters you've heard so much about lately should not be called "hoverboards," as they do not hover. Two, everyone should stop buying them.
GIF by Sam Woolley
The United States Postal Service just banned quote-unquote hoverboards on airmail flights since the batteries have a naughty tendency to catch on fire. The move comes just a few days after multiple airlines put hoverboards on the no-fly list citing the same safety hazard. The abrupt change in policy is understandable, since explosions in the sky are a very real danger.
But the fire risk is only the latest item on a growing list of ways that hoverboards wreak havoc on the world. Last week, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) told Gizmodo that it's conducting an extensive investigation into over 30 emergency room visits due to hoverboard accidents, in addition to nearly a dozen reports of the gadgets spontaneously combusting. Some poor family in Louisiana lost their home after a hoverboard bought on Amazon exploded while charging. "It was like fireworks," the mother of the boy who owned the hoverboard told the local news, "the middle part of the board -- just 'poof.'"
Just 'poof. That's how quickly these things can ruin your life.
The hoverboard threat isn't just being acknowledged by government agencies and airlines -- stores are taking action, too. Amazon itself quietly stopped selling a number of hoverboard brands due to safety concerns. Target and Overstock.com have similarly pulled hoverboards off their digital shelves until somebody gets a handle on this rash of fires and accidents. Meanwhile, the popular and very poorly named Swagway as well as big box sports hut Moddell's are the target of a class action lawsuit in New York over some kid's Hanukkah present catching on fire.
There are still plenty of ways to get ahold of one of these little litigation machines, though. The Sharper Image is even offering free shipping on its Sharper Image-branded "Hover Board" with a "genuine Samsung built-in rechargeable battery [that] meets UL standard." (UL is the private, non-profit safety commission that puts those little circles on the back of electronics.) The Sharper Image Hover Board costs $US500 ($703).
But guys! Enough of this funny business. There's something wrong with these so-called hoverboards. Just look past the obvious problem that the overpriced vehicles don't hover, and consider the reality that these things could get you killed.
There's already been at least one hoverboard-related death. A 15-year-old boy got hit by a bus in London after he fell off his hoverboard and was pronounced dead on the scene. So while it's fun to laugh at YouTube videos of people eating shit after stepping onto one of these things, hoverboards are a new technology that people don't quite know how to use safely. Meanwhile, all evidence suggests that manufacturers also don't know how to build them safely. Or won't.
So don't buy them -- at least, not yet. It's somewhat encouraging that certain companies are showcasing UL-certified batteries in an attempt to make you think it's safe to trade several hundred dollars for the chance to burn down your house or take a trip to the emergency room. That doesn't sound like a gamble you really need take this holiday season.
The government will release the findings of its investigation in the not-too-distant future. They have said that product recalls are a real possibility. So even if you're feeling rebellious and refuse to take this sage advice, you might just have to send that hoverboard back in a few weeks.
Sure, you might have a nice time zooming around the footpaths of Manhattan, dodging police and scaring old people. You're not going to make many friends that way, though -- and you might even lose your life.