Atlanta may collect scooter crash data; LA study found head injuries most common

By David Pendered

Head injuries, broken bones and abrasions are common injuries when riders crash their standing electronic scooters, according to a recent study from California. A proposal to track such data in Atlanta is pending before the Atlanta City Council.

jump, ebike basket

The Atlanta City Council may ask area hospitals to track and report crash data related to scooters, which the city has defined to include bicycles and e-bicycles, such as the JUMP bikes introduced by Uber. Credit: David Pendered

Councilmember Dustin Hillis wants area hospitals to voluntarily record scooter-related injury data and send it to Atlanta every quarter for analysis. A council committee chaired by Hillis is slated to consider the proposal Tuesday and, if approved, the council could vote on it as early as March 3.

Hillis’ legislation specifically observes:

  • “[T]he data should include, but not be limited to, the number of incidents within the designated timeframe, type of incident, injuries sustained, number of people involved, and if the incident was a fatality….”

The legislation speaks to scooters, an area that seems to include electric bicycles that are in fleets of shareable bikes. A regulation to govern the use and operation of shareable dockless mobility devices says the regulation, “shall include but not be limited to a bicycle/e-bicycle, scooter/e-scooter.”

The California research project was conducted with crash data collected from 249 injuries treated at two UCLA hospitals between Sept. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018. The report was released Jan. 25 by JAMA Network Open. Results showed:

  • Head injuries were reported for 40 percent of the crash victims. Most of these were diagnosed as “minor,” which is defined as a closed head injury without a skull fracture on intracranial hemorrahage.
  • Broken bones were the next most-common injury, accounting for 31 percent of the injuries. The majority of broken bones were in the upper extremities – clavicles, scapulas, elbows, upper arms. The other breaks were in the lower extremities – legs, knees and feet.
  • Soft-tissue injuries accounted for 28 percent of injuries.
Dustin Hillis

Dustin Hillis

The research project grew from general concerns about injuries sustained in the wildly expanding world of scooters. These vehicles are cheap enough (about $400) to fill the market niche that Segways were too expensive (about $6,000) to address – a mass-market vehicle to enable commuters to cover the last quarter-mile of connectivity, say from a transit station to a destination, or a short commute.

The authors contend the study was intended only to inform the public policy questions related to scooter usage, according to the report, which observed:

  • “CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
  • Injuries associated with standing electric scooter use are a new phenomenon and vary in severity. In this study, helmet use was low and a significant subset of injuries occurred in patients younger than 18 years, the minimum age permitted by private scooter company regulations. These findings may inform public policy regarding standing electric scooter use.”

Hillis’ legislation portrays scooters as a Wild West when it comes to their usage in the city. This remains the case even after the council in January enacted regulations that govern the scooters’ use and operation in Atlanta.

Georgia Tech, bicycles

A vanishing breed of students commutes the old fashion way at Georgia Tech, by bicycles that aren’t in a fleet of commercial shareable bikes. Credit: David Pendered

One passage of the legislation speaks directly to Hillis’ intent in tracking injury data related to scooters:

  • [T]here is no requirement for users of shareable scooters to wear helmets or any other protective gear which puts them at risk for serious injuries.”

The paper observes that scooters represent, “an innovative and environmentally-safe mode of transportation.” But they are such a novel approach to urban mobility that there’s not much in terms of regulations or community mores to guide their usage.

In sponsoring the legislation, Hillis is fulfilling interests related both to his professional and public service interests. Hillis serves as a critical care registered nurse in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unity at Emory University Hospital, according to his profile on the council’s website.

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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