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E-Bikes and E-Scooters: Just How Safe Are They?

There has been a spike in popularity of electric bikes and scooters in the US during the last 2 years, especially in congested cities. Electric bikes, which run on batteries lasting 20-60 miles per charge, are meant to aid riders, especially when trekking up hills or steep roads. Though these modes of transportation may be convenient, easier, and fun, their safety has been brought into question, as they pose a huge risk to its riders, as well as the general public.

Adding to the Deadly Trend?

In the last decade, there has been an increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths, as well as distracted driving fatalities. Many of these tragedies are blamed on driver inattention, most likely from either talking or texting. Many people are now concerned that with the rise in e-bike and e-scooter popularity, this trend is only going to increase.

So far, 2019 is proving to be an extremely deadly year for cyclists in major US cities, especially in New York City. As of now, 22 people lost their lives, with most accidents happening in Brooklyn. Many of the deaths are being blamed on driver inattention and are calling into question the safety of cyclists on the road. Many states are implementing new street safety programs, designating lanes specifically for cyclists to ensure their safety.

There have been over 1,500 reported injuries and at least 8 deaths in the US due to e-scooters since June 2019. Research shows that 75% of the known fatalities on e-scooters were caused by collisions with cars. Two out of 10 users expressed a feeling of being unsafe while riding, with 8% also reporting that at some point, their scooter malfunctioned while riding it.

Outside of the US, e-bikes and e-scooters have grown in popularity in countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland, where there have been many reported deaths and serious injuries. Dutch outlets reported that e-bikes were involved in 341 accidents in the first part of 2018, a 26% rise since 2017. In Israel, there were 795 injuries between 2013 and 2015. Data shows that only 8% of those injured were pedestrians, while the rest were riders. In July 2019, news spread that YouTube personality Emily Hartridge tragically lost her life after colliding with a truck while riding her e-scooter in London.

These scooters can travel at speeds up to 15 mph and are now equipped with wireless connectivity. They are often offered as “rent-by-the-minute”, which can be done so through an app. Do not expect to see e-scooters in the UK, however, as they are still not legal.

The most popular manufacturers of e-scooters are Bird, Lime, and Spin. Bird, arguably the largest producer, has a value of over $1 billion. Companies like Uber and Lyft are also taking advantage of the e-bike’s gain in popularity and have begun to rent bikes through their apps. Unfortunately, their decisions to do so came with some complications. In 2019, Lyft re-called 2,500 e-bikes due to a malfunction of the front brakes that caused riders to stop short and flip over the handlebars. The bike’s brakes were manufactured by a Japanese company called Shimano.

Dr. Jay Doucet, who is chief of the trauma division at the University of California San Diego Health Hospital, says that the hospital has seen more than 150 e-scooter major trauma victims since January 2018. Only 2% of the victims he treated were wearing helmets at the time they crashed.

Injuries vary and range from moderate to life-threatening. Some people have experienced bruises, cuts, and abrasions having fallen from their electric bikes and scooters. Others have suffered more serious injuries, such as broken bones and brain injuries. A health study out of Texas and the CDC found that per 100,000 scooter trips, 20 people were injured, and of those, 15% suffered a traumatic brain injury. The study also revealed that just one out of 190 people injured while riding the scooters over a 3-month period was wearing a helmet at the time of their injury.

Many cities have taken measures to either ban electric scooters altogether or put firm restrictions in place to try to deter use. Beverly Hills and San Francisco put a ban on them, while Washington, D.C. and Seattle put strict limitations on usage.

Scooter rental companies do not consider the legal complexities and ramifications if their renter causes an accident or is injured by someone in a collision. Unlike operating a vehicle that has both liability insurance and medical insurance coverage, a scooter is uninsured. Under certain circumstances, the operator may not be entitled to coverage for losses through their personal automobile insurance policy or from a negligent driver’s insurance. As with motorcycle accidents, police are often prejudiced against scooter and bicycle riders and report the accident against the scooter operator.

Some cities require scooter companies to have insurance, but these laws are different in each state. Riders need to check with their state insurance department to learn what is required within their state. That being said, here is some practical and legal advice you need to know.

  • Always wear a helmet
  • Avoid operating with a passenger
  • Always drive defensively
  • Always obey all motor vehicle laws
  • Always be on the alert for distracted pedestrians
  • Do not operate the scooter at night without reflective clothing
  • Always ride with personal identification in case of emergency
  • Always operate your scooter in the right-hand lane or bike lane
  • Always report an accident to the police
  • If involved in a collision, get all the other drivers’ information, including license, registration, and insurance cards. Take photos of the accident scene and of any injuries
  • Do not operate a scooter under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUI laws may apply
  • Do not allow underage people or children to operate a rented scooter
  • If involved in a crash caused by another, look for businesses that may have video cameras within the area to prove another’s fault
  • Make certain that you have medical coverage that would cover you if injured
  • Contact a qualified expert injury lawyer that has the experience with lawsuits regarding motorcycles, bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters, and transportation sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft

About Garry R. Salomon, Esq.

Garry R. Salomon is a Founding Partner at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C., and focuses his practice on personal injury litigation. He is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil Trial Attorney, a distinction held by less than 2% of all attorneys. The lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C. have won hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of their clients. The firm prides itself on its legal skills and knowledge, as well as an advanced understanding of the medical and emotional complexities caused by injuries. If you would like more information, please visit www.dsslaw.com or contact Garry Salomon at garry@dsslaw.com or by calling 201-907-5000.