In Washington, D.C. and other urban hubs across the nation, electric bikes and scooters have been gaining popularity as an alternative to driving. While using them may decrease commute time, they also come with an increased risk of sustaining a serious head injury.
At the end of 2018, 2,400 dockless vehicles were allowed on D.C streets. In 2019, this number is predicted to increase drastically. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has already approved permits for eight companies to launch electric bikes and scooters this year, and multiple others have applied to do the same. This could lead to a total of 16,800 dockless vehicles by the end of the calendar year.
Unfortunately, a law reform passed in D.C. in 2016 leaves e-scooter riders unprotected to this day. The law allows pedestrians and cyclists to recover 100 percent of their losses after an accident as long as they are not found to be 50 percent or more at fault. Because this rule went into effect before the influx of e-scooters, however, electric vehicle riders do not have that same protection. Because of this, a new bill is being discussed that would expand the law further to include electric scooter and bike riders.
The number of electric scooter incidents in the U.S. is expanding at an alarming rate. In just two emergency rooms in Los Angeles, 249 people received treatment for electric scooter-related injuries in the span of a single year. Over 40 percent of them were treated for head injuries, including two with head injuries severe enough to be admitted to an intensive care unit. There have also been cases of pedestrians being injured after being hit by somebody riding an e-scooter.
A major contributing factor causing these head injuries is that electric scooter riders are not wearing helmets. The same Los Angeles study found that only four percent of scooter injury patients were wearing helmets at the time of their crash. Impaired riding was also a factor in some cases: five percent of the patients admitted to the hospital either appeared or were confirmed to be under the influence.
As more electric scooters pile onto D.C. roads, it will be essential for riders to take safety measures to minimize the risk of sustaining a dangerous head injury. Moving forward, it will be critically important for lawmakers to update regulations to account for the increasing number of e-scooter and e-bicycle commuters in D.C.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.