Love ’em or hate ’em — and many, many do — e-scooters are taking cities across the globe by storm. But amid ongoing reports that people are seriously messing themselves up on these things, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided last year to take a closer look at why this is happening.
Epidemiologists with the agency landed in Austin late last year at the request of its public health and transportation departments to begin work on the first-of-its-kind study on dockless e-scooters together with Austin Public Health. CBNC reported Friday that the two agencies had concluded their data collection and are now compiling that information into reports.
Jeff Taylor, a manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health who is overseeing the probe, is working in collaboration with three CDC epidemiologists on the study, CNBC reported. While the full study findings are expected sometime in spring, Taylor did point to several key observations.
For example, Taylor told CNBC that less than 1 per cent of e-scooter riders put on helmets — an issue that’s been the cause of some debate for lawmakers. Taylor also told CNBC that there are misconceptions about scooter crashes overall:
“There’s a perception that scooter-related injuries occur at night. Well that’s not true,” Taylor said. “Our study will show they occur during all times of the day. People may also perceive there’s typically a car involved. But our study finds most of the time the rider may hit a bump in the road or they simply lose their balance.”
USA Today reported in December that the agencies’ work would focus on crash data and interviews with people injured while operating e-scooters. The information they gathered—focusing specifically on incidents that occurred during the window between September and November — was intended to help inform city rules as well as how best to avoid future injuries.
Big-name scooter companies like Lime and Bird told CNBC that they support the study. Indeed, both companies have urged riders to operate their e-scooters responsibly, though the responsibility ultimately falls on riders. And actually getting people to practice basic safety precautions like wearing helmets can be tricky.
A JAMA study published in January found that fractures and head injuries were commonly reported e-scooter-related injuries seen in the emergency room records of two hospitals affiliated with UCLA between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. Worryingly, an additional observational study from the same authors found that less than 5 per cent of riders wore helmets while operating scooters.
That said, and despite the fact that the study has seemingly already debunked some common misunderstandings about e-scooter injuries overall, it will certainly be interesting to see what—if anything—the CDC learns of injuries alleged to have resulted from buggy, unexpected issues with the scooters themselves.