Study sheds light on e-scooter crash risks

Electric scooters (commonly referred to as e-scooters) have become an increasingly popular travel option over the past couple of years not only in densely populated California cities but in similarly packed metro areas across the nation and around the world.

The emission-free scooters offer a fun way to make short urban journeys. But e-scooters come with more than a faint electric hum: many city planners and pedestrians want the trendy gadgets banned from sidewalks, or even banned altogether. Too often, pedestrians are struck and injured by e-scooters, while drivers fret about scooters darting in front of them from between parked cars.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently studied the safety impact of e-scooters.

Pedestrian crash concerns

“We didn’t see many e-scooter crashes with motor vehicles, and that may be a result of riders sticking mostly to the sidewalk,” said Jessica Cicchino, the lead author of the IIHS research. “On the other hand, there are legitimate concerns that sidewalk riders could crash into pedestrians.”

It should be noted that Pasadena prohibits e-scooter riders and bicyclists from using city sidewalks.

IIHS researchers spoke with more than 100 e-scooter riders injured on the devices about where and how they were injured on the sidewalks or streets of Washington, D.C., in incidents that took place in 2019. They also compared e-scooter rider demographics to bicyclist demographics gathered in a previous study.

IIHS study results

In broad terms, the IIHS found that scooter riders suffer more injuries per mile traveled than bicyclists, but that those on bikes are three times more likely to be struck by motor vehicles than those on scooters. E-scooter riders are also twice as likely to be injured because of crashes due to potholes, pavement cracks, curbs or collisions with signposts.

Nearly 3 out of 5 scooter riders were injured while riding on sidewalks, with about a third of them injured in places that ban scooter-riding on sidewalks.

About a quarter of scooter riders were injured commuting to or from work, while the rest were hurt in crashes that happened while riding for fun, on errands or for a social event.

Inconclusive findings

The IIHS says it’s not clear where the scooters belong: on sidewalks, where pedestrian crashes are more frequent but injuries are less serious, or on streets, where collisions with vehicles are less likely, but injuries are more significant. Both e-scooter riders and pedestrians should be cautious and vigilant when sharing the roads or sidewalks to avoid crashes and subsequent injuries.