New US research has found that the increasing trend for using electric scooters to zip around cities appears to be linked with an increase in facial and head injuries caused by accidents while riding.
Led by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, the new study looked at records in the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance system, which collates data from around 100 participating hospitals.
The team gathered data from between 2008 and 2017 to analyze the types and frequency of head and facial injuries caused by motorized scooters. During this period, the use of the scooters increased greatly, partly due to people looking for more environmentally friendly but also effective alternatives to cars and other vehicles.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, showed that during the decade studied head or facial injuries sustained from electric scooter use tripled, increasing from an estimated 2,325 injuries nationwide in 2008 to an estimated 6,947 in 2017.
The majority of patients, 62.1 percent, were men between the ages of 19 and 65. Children age six to 12 were also likely to sustain injuries, making up 33.3 percent of patients, followed by teens age 13 to 18 , (16.1 percent) and young adults age 19 to 40 (18 percent).
The most common injury was a closed head injury, such as concussion and bleeding or bruising of the brain, (36.1 percent), followed by facial cuts or abrasions (20.5 percent). Around five percent of injuries were facial fractures, most often in the skull or nose.
The researchers also found that many people are being injured from not wearing helmets, with 66 percent of those injured failing to wear one in records where helmet use was recorded.
The study also found that helmet use increased with age, with around 19 percent of toddlers wearing a helmet compared to about 67 percent of seniors.
"Children use motorized scooters marketed as toys, but in reality, certain models can reach speeds of almost 30 miles per hour," said co-author Amishav Bresler, adding that laws regarding motorized scooters and helmet use vary signficantly from state to state.
"The United States should standardize electric scooter laws and license requirements should be considered to decrease the risky behaviors associated with motorized scooter use," said Bresler, who noted that legislation in other countries had successfully reduced the number of injuries. "In 2000, Italy implemented a law mandating helmet use for all types of recreational scooter drivers-legislation that reduced head trauma in scooter riders from about 27 out of 10,000 people before the law passed to about 9 out of 10,000 people afterward."