Electric scooters are an easy, quick, and inexpensive mode to travel short distances, and have greatly increased in popularity since being introduced in 2017. However, recent evidence supports that these scooters are associated with a high rate of injury, and specifically head injuries. Laws governing helmet use vary from state to state, with most states not requiring helmet use or only requiring helmet use for those under 18 years of age. For instance, in the District of Columbia, the DMV laws do not require helmet use at all1, but laws in California require riders under 18 years to use helmets2. Given limited helmet regulations, as few as 1% to 4% of riders have reported using helmets as recent studies have found3. Around 45% percent of incidents involve head injury, demonstrating the need for helmet regulations.
The CDC has started to investigate e-scooter injuries, with the hopes of informing injury prevention strategies. One study characterized e-scooter injuries among 158 individuals in Austin, Texas from September to November of 2018. Of the reported injuries, 45% were head injuries, 27% were upper extremity fractures, and 12% were lower extremity fractures3. Less than 1% of riders reported helmet use, leading the CDC to conclude that a majority of the head injuries were attributed to a lack of helmet use and therefore were preventable.
Similar findings were noted by a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association. This study analyzed medical records of 249 patients presenting to two California ED’s with e-scooter injuries from 2017 to 2018, and found that 40.2% of accidents involved head injuries4. Of the patients with a minor head injury, 94.7% were not wearing a helmet during the accident, and none of the patients with an intracranial hemorrhage used a helmet. In total, only 4.4% of injured riders were wearing helmets. These two studies support that helmet use is very low among e-scooter riders and that many accidents involve head injury.
While there is limited data on helmet use preventing e-scooter injury, significant data supports the use of helmets in preventing bicycle-related injuries. A meta-analysis on 55 studies from 1989 to 2017 found that bicycle helmet use reduces head injury by 48%, serious head injury by 60%, traumatic brain injury by 53%, and the total number of killed cyclists by 34%5. The study concludes that wearing a helmet while bicycling is effective in reducing head and brain injury and therefore is highly recommended. As Laurel Morano from the CDC stated, these findings might also be applicable to e-scooter crashes3. Helmet use may reduce the risk of head and brain injury in e-scooter accidents.
- District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles. (2018). Synopsis of Non-Traditional Motor Vehicles, Other Vehicles and DC Law. [online] Available at: https://dmv.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dmv/publication/attachme... [Accessed 18 Jun. 2019].
- Dmv.ca.gov. (2019). Motorized Scooter. [online] Available at: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/d... [Accessed 18 Jun. 2019].
- Morano L. CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/eis/conference/dpk/Dockless_Electric_Scooter_Related.... Published 2019. Accessed June 18, 2019.
- Trivedi TK, Liu C, Antonio ALM, et al. Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use. JAMA Netw Open. Published online January 25, 20192(1):e187381. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7381.
- A H. Bicycle helmets - To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries. - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29677686. Published 2019. Accessed June 18, 2019.
Erica Chemtob is a 2nd year Medical Student at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health from the George Washington University and was a Presidential Academic Scholar, a NCAA D1 Student-Athlete on the Varsity Squash Team, and a music minor studying violin. Prior research experience includes the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH) and the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Office. She also served as a research assistant for the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence Lab under Dr. Faye Taxman. She was also a squash coach at Squash On Fire, and performed violin at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.