Electric scooters have quickly gained popularity across the United States as a convenient, ecofriendly way to get around urban areas. Since scooters are a fairly new mode of transportation, many cities do not have regulations and guidelines in place yet for their safe operation. As scooter use has increased, so has the number of accidents with the potential to cause serious injuries.
Electric Scooters Can Be Dangerous
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, electric scooter riders took around 38.5 million trips in 2018, which exceeded the 36.5 million rides taken on docked bicycles. Although electric scooters provide a fun and easy way to travel through a city, they present a range of liability questions amid uncertainty about how safe they are.
Electric scooters are new to Chicago. However, a number of issues have already emerged in other major cities that have introduced them. Studies have found that scooter accidents can result in severe injuries that range from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. They can cause harm not only to scooter riders but also to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
Since 2017, there have been more than 1,500 scooter-related injuries across the United States, as well as at least eight deaths. Some of these accidents led to significant, lifelong consequences for the victims including paralysis.
Studies by the University of California Los Angeles and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that concussions, brain bleeds and other types of head injuries make up nearly half of all reported scooter-related injuries. Fractures account for 32 percent of emergency room visits due to scooter crashes.
Austin, Texas, launched its electric scooter program in April 2018. A study by the city’s Department of Public Health found nearly half of the 190 riders injured during a three-month period suffered head injuries, including 15 percent who had traumatic brain injuries. Only one rider was wearing a helmet. Upper limb injuries of wrists, hands, arms or shoulders were the most common, affecting 70 percent of riders.
Researchers found speeding was the biggest contributing factor to scooter accidents, playing a role in 37 percent of cases. One-third of the hurt riders blamed their injuries on inexperience as they were using a scooter for the first time. Nearly 30 percent of riders had been drinking. A vehicle was involved in 16 percent of scooter accidents. Only two non-riders were injured during that period — a bicyclist and a pedestrian.
Electric Scooters Debut on Chicago Streets
Chicago followed in the footsteps of several major cities when it launched a pilot electric scooter program on June 15, 2019. The city decided to use a four-month period to evaluate whether electric scooters will benefit residents and how they will integrate into existing public transportation and bike systems. According to city officials, 60,000 trips were taken in the first week of the test program alone. There were also reports of scooter-related crashes and emergency room visits.
Shared electric scooters operate like rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft. Riders can rent them through the scooter vendor’s smartphone app. Riders are not required to carry a special license to operate an electric scooter. However, they must be at least 18 years old.
Many different companies offer electric scooters for rent. Although Lime and Bird are the biggest vendors nationally, a number of other scooter brands are gaining momentum in the market. Here are the 10 scooter companies operating in Chicago:
Electric scooters are “dockless,” which means riders can drop them off anywhere and simply walk away rather than returning them to fixed stations. The dockless aspect has made scooters controversial in other cities. They are being left in the middle of sidewalks, posing a safety hazard to pedestrians who can trip and fall over them.
To combat common issues raised in other locations, Chicago has enforced several strict rules on where scooters can be parked. They must not clutter or block sidewalks, loading zones or building entrances. Vendors also must clear streets and sidewalks of all scooters by midnight in order to prevent irresponsible behavior. Chicago is the only city to have the latter requirement. Other rules include the following:
- Scooters can only operate in designated areas of the city.
- Riders must remain in bicycle lanes rather than using sidewalks.
- Scooter speeds are limited to 15mph.
Safety remains a major concern. Injuries sustained from scooter accidents can prevent people from returning to work or leave them with chronic pain and piles of medical bills. If you have been hurt in an electric scooter accident in Chicago, the attorneys at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg can help you obtain compensation for your injuries through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Common Causes of Electric Scooter Accidents
There are currently no nationwide laws regulating the use of electric scooters, despite reports of accidents that have resulted in serious injuries. Scooter riders, pedestrians and bicyclists are exposed to the dangers of getting seriously hurt. A wide range of injuries have been reported across cities that have introduced scooters, including lacerations, broken bones, head trauma, dislocated shoulders and fractured wrists, among others. Some cases have even resulted in paralysis or death.
Electric scooter accidents can occur due to a variety of reasons that range from defective equipment to motor vehicle collisions. All it takes for an accident to occur is a single act of negligence. Here are some common causes of scooter accidents:
- Road hazards: Street maintenance is an important part of scooter safety. Potholes, bumps or debris on the roads can cause electric scooters to crash. Uneven pavement puts scooter riders at risk of losing their balance and falling. Poor weather conditions like icy or slippery roads are also to blame in some cases.
- Electric system malfunctions: There have been multiple reports of scooters malfunctioning and causing riders to lose control. Possible problems include brake failures, batteries crashing mid-ride or handlebars detaching. Scooter rental companies are responsible for ensuring their scooters are safe and that riders are aware of possible risks before using them.
- Improper parking: Scooters left in the middle of roads and sidewalks can be a serious safety hazard. At the end of a ride, scooters should be left standing up and out of the way of pedestrians and oncoming traffic. Otherwise, people can trip and fall over them. Additionally, individuals with disabilities may find it difficult to maneuver around scooters that are scattered on a sidewalk.
- Distracted riding: Everyone is familiar with the dangers of distracted driving, but the same concept also applies to electric scooters. Just as in a car, riding a scooter while intoxicated, checking your phone, using navigation, eating or drinking can cause accidents. The rider will have less control over the scooter and not be paying attention to their surroundings.
- Collisions: Collisions can occur in several different scenarios. Electric scooters do not mix well with other motor vehicles. A scooter accident involving a car or truck can cause significant injury to the rider due to the sheer force of impact from a larger vehicle. Additionally, both scooter riders and bicyclists must be careful when sharing a bike lane in order to avoid collisions.
How to Protect Yourself from an Electric Scooter Accident in Chicago
Many electric scooter accidents involve first-time riders. The lack of experience in operating the vehicle and unfamiliarity with the rules involved can expose riders to the risk of getting hurt or injuring others. Among the scooter injuries analyzed by the CDC, one-third occurred during the user’s first ride.
While you cannot prevent an accident that is caused by another party’s negligence, there are certain steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are five simple safety tips to remember when riding an electric scooter:
- Become familiar with how scooters work. It is a good idea to take a test ride in an open space prior to heading off. Practice until you get a hang of starting and stopping, maneuvering, and accelerating and decelerating. You may have used a scooter as a child or are currently a bicyclist. However, that does not mean you will be a natural scooter rider. Make sure to read the vendor’s safety instructions.
- Wear a helmet. The best thing you can do to protect yourself from injuries is to wear a helmet at all times while riding a scooter, even if it is not required by law. Chicago strongly encourages scooter riders to wear helmets. If an accident occurs, a helmet can reduce your chances of suffering a head injury or traumatic brain injury.
- Follow the rules of the road. Make sure you use your scooter in designated bike lanes rather than on sidewalks. It is also vital to follow traffic signals and observe speed limits. Use hand signals when riding alongside traffic. Electric scooters are meant to be used by a single rider, so riding tandem can be dangerous.
- Avoid distractions. Stay off your phone while on a scooter, whether it is responding to a text message or checking navigation. Do not drink and ride. Even one alcoholic drink can impair your ability to navigate the streets on a scooter. Riding a scooter instead of driving a car is not necessarily safer. It puts you and others at risk of injury or death.
- Do not ride at night or in bad weather. Scooter riders may be less visible to motorists and pedestrians in the dark. In addition, potholes, debris or bumps on the roadway can be difficult to spot at night. Poor weather conditions can also lead to crashes due to slippery roads.
Contact a Chicago Electric Scooter Attorney Today
Whether you are a scooter rider, bicyclist or pedestrian, injuries sustained in an electric scooter accident can be very severe and disrupt your life. If you have been injured in a scooter accident, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg.
A scooter accident can involve a variety of liable parties, whether it is motorists, scooter operators, scooter manufacturers or others. Our Chicago electric scooter accident attorneys will examine the facts of your case and determine who is at fault for the accident. We will ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and other losses such as lost wages, property damage, past and future medical expenses, emotional distress and more. Dealing with insurance companies on your own can be frustrating and stressful. Our attorneys will handle your claim while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Briskman Briskman & Greenberg can help you understand your legal options for pursuing compensation in an electric scooter accident, whether it is through filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.