An Emerging Market
Back in 2012, San Francisco became the testing ground for Scoot Rides, inc., a company which sought to provide an online network for sharing short-distance transportation options. Scoot began as a startup offering Vespa-style scooters to rent for up to $5 an hour. While it had a $10 initial sign-up fee, it also provided insurance and a helmet for every rider, and was a fairly cheap and painless way to navigate San Francisco, one of the most congested cities in America.
Scooters have been a relatively new addition to the industry of “micromobility”, a term for short-distance transportation usually less than five miles. For decades, micromobility was primarily made up of bicycle rentals in tourist-heavy cities.
But as cities have grown, an increasing number of people have eschewed cars for walking, biking, or hailing rideshare services. Electric scooters represented a transportation option which was more convenient than walking, and not as strenuous or unwieldy as bicycling.
Injuries on the Rise
Americans took over 38.5 million trips on rented scooters in 2018, more than double the amount in 2017. All scooters were responsible for over 15,400 injuries between 2014 and 2016, before spiking up to over 22,600 injuries between 2017 and 2018. About one-third of injured patients experienced head trauma, and a CDC study found that about 20% were caused by collision with a vehicle.
At least 1,500 of those injuries can be attributed to rented scooters, as 110 hospitals from 47 US cities have reported. A number of injuries are believed to go unreported, or not specified as resulting from the rental of a scooter. It’s unknown how many of these cases involved alcohol, whether riders wore helmets, or if they were a result of human error or technical failure, but it’s still a worrying upward trend.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2019, a 5-year-old boy was riding on a rental scooter with his mother when he fell off and was struck by a vehicle. In Nashville, a 26-year-old man was struck by an SUV and died days later. At the time of the incident, he was found to have a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. Both people are among the 8 Americans who have died while riding a rental scooter since 2018.
Beyond a knowledge of local law, which may vary, riders should obey the terms of service laid out by the rental companies and follow several safety principles in order to reduce the risks.
- Obey age restrictions.
Many scooter rental companies require riders to be at least 18 years old. Many riders must upload a photo of their driver’s license to the company’s app to verify their age, but this can be circumvented by children simply borrowing their parent’s license and information.
A waiver is also signed before riding, freeing the rental company of all liability in the case of an accident. One underage rider in California, Javier, said, “I read through the agreement, but I didn’t take it seriously […] I told my parents I was riding it, and they let me.”
- One rider, one scooter.
Scooters, only having two wheels, are not difficult to balance when in motion for most riders. However, adding a second rider to the equation, even a smaller rider such as a child, presents an unnecessary risk to everyone involved.
If one passenger loses their balance, it may be difficult to correct the balance before a fall. Many rental scooters can go as fast as 15mph, a speed which can cause concussions, disfiguring skin abrasions, broken bones, or even more serious injuries in the event of a crash.
- Stay aware.
E-scooter rentals are popular in areas of high foot traffic, most especially near bars, beaches, or other social hotspots. Alcohol or other mind-altering substances can be rife in such places, and it’s critical to recognize how radically they can affect judgement, reaction time, and balance. Treat riding an electric scooter how you might treat driving a vehicle, with all the risks that entails both to yourself and others.
- Wear a helmet.
While many e-scooter rentals don’t provide helmets, if a helmet is made available, it’s always recommended to protect your head and avoid a preventable injury.
E-Scooter Rentals in Tampa
E-scooter rentals were made available in Tampa in 2019, when the city allowed up to 2,400 scooters to be set up around the city on a probationary one-year period, to gauge the success and safety of micromobility around town.
The scooters were a hit almost immediately, with thousands of riders renting throughout the program’s introductory weekend. To the praise of many skeptics, the scooters have been restricted or outright banned from popular walking areas such as Curtis Hixon park or the Tampa Riverwalk downtown, citing a desire to not crowd these beautiful areas with discarded or roaming e-scooters.
It is currently illegal to ride electric scooters on the street or in bike paths, but Governor DeSantis, with the support of Representative Toledo and Senator Brandes, has considered loosening these restrictions to allow counties or cities to implement their own policies. “We thought it was important to get everyone on board early on and make sure that cities have maximum flexibility,” Says Sen. Brandes.
Though it’s difficult to estimate how many scooter-related injuries have occurred in Tampa following the program’s introduction, one can only hope the trend continues, and e-scooters and micromobility prove a safe alternative to other forms of transportation.
Personal Injury Law Firm in Tampa | Franco Law Group
If you or a loved one is involved in a scooter accident in Florida, please contact us to explore your legal options. Franco Law Group is here to help you figure out your next steps and assist you in any way we can. If you have any questions or would like to talk more about a recent accident, please contact us at (813) 873-0180.