Electric scooters have grown significantly in popularity over the last few years thanks to the advent of rentable dockless e-scooters. Companies such as Lime, Bird and Spin have brought hundreds of thousands of rentable e-scooters to most major cities around the U.S. The rise of e-scooters has been controversial, however, with many cities banning the vehicles over safety concerns. In July 2019, apprehension spiked again after the unexpected e-scooter accident death of YouTube star Emily Hartridge.
Emily Hartridge passed away at 35 years old in the first accident of its kind in South London –an e-scooter accident. Reports say she was on her way to a fertility clinic near her home around 8:30 a.m. when a truck struck her in a busy roundabout. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene, marking the first fatal electric scooter accident for the UK. Prosecutors did not press charges or make any arrests related to the accident, and the family has not yet announced any plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver of the truck.
The death of Emily Hartridge was sadly not the first e-scooter death globally. A 22-year-old man in Singapore passed away after falling from an e-scooter and hitting his head in 2016. Eight additional e-scooter riders died from 2017 to today. Many other people have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries in incidents involving e-scooters, with some of the most common injuries involving the face, head and brain. E-scooter injuries can include broken bones, lost teeth, traumatic head injuries, internal organ damage, torn muscles and spine injuries.
The YouTube star’s fatal e-scooter accident renewed many people’s concerns regarding the safety of these vehicles. Emily Hartridge was not alone as a victim. One Consumer Reports investigation calculated 1,500 rider injuries related to e-scooter accidents around the country since 2017 – although the actual number is likely much higher due to lack of hospital reporting. These were only injuries serious enough to require emergency medical care.
E-scooters can pose many safety risks to riders. E-scooter companies market the vehicles as easy to jump on and go at the spur of the moment. They are available to riders without needing any practice or experience. Inexperienced riders may not be able to safely control their e-scooters, resulting in injuries from falling off the scooter, riding into traffic or braking too abruptly. While most e-scooter companies encourage riders to wear helmets, it may not be practical to carry around a helmet. This leads to a large number of e-scooter riders without head protection.
E-scooters are dangerous enough when they are working correctly. A product defect could make them even deadlier. Major e-scooter companies have experienced product defects and malfunctions that have contributed to user injuries. One company, Lime, experienced a technical problem that caused sudden and extreme braking in the middle of rides. Lime also had battery issues that caused their scooters to catch fire.
It might be safest to avoid e-scooters completely as a traveler. They do not have the metal cab, seatbelts or airbags to protect you in an accident as a motor vehicle does. If you must ride an electric scooter, increase your safety by taking certain measures.
You should not rent an e-scooter unless you are at least 16 and have a valid driver’s license. Obey your city’s rules regarding where you may ride your scooter. When you finish the ride, drop your e-scooter in a safe location where it will not pose a trip-and-fall hazard to pedestrians. If you get into an e-scooter accident, contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of compensation.