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Serious Scooter Injuries Tripled in U.S. in Four Years
  • Posted January 10, 2024

Serious Scooter Injuries Tripled in U.S. in Four Years

When you're looking for a cheap and easy way to get around town, which is safer -- a scooter or a bike?

A nationwide look at injuries related to both suggests biking may be the safer way to go.

UCLA researchers report that scooter injuries nearly tripled across the U.S. between 2016 and 2020, many serious enough to require orthopedic and plastic surgery. The cost of treating those injuries rose five-fold, underscoring their financial strain on the health care system.

"Considering the rise in the number of hospitalizations and major operations for scooter-related injuries, it's crucial to elevate safety standards for riders," lead author Nam Yong Cho, a third year medical student at UCLA, said in a news release. "Advocating for improved infrastructure, including enforced speed limits and dedicated lanes, is also vital to minimize risks for vehicles, scooter riders, and pedestrians alike."

For the study -- published Jan. 9 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons -- researchers used a federal government database to compare trends and outcomes for scooter- and bicycle-related injuries. The database did not distinguish between electric and non-electric scooters.

In all, nearly 93,000 patients were hospitalized for injuries -- about 6,100 from scooters -- during the study period.

About 27% of the scooter users and 16% of bike riders were under 18.

Injuries rose during winter months, and scooter injuries led to more major surgeries than bike injuries (56% versus 48%). These included orthopedic surgery (89% versus 48%); plastic surgery (85% versus 85%); and operations to the head (5% versus 4%).

Scooter riders were more likely to have long bone fractures and paralysis than bikers, but both groups had similar risks for traumatic brain injuries, the study found.

And those injuries were expensive.

The annual cost of treating scooter-related injuries skyrocketed from about $6.6 million in 2016 to $35.5 million in 2020. The cost of bike injuries also rose, from $307 million to $434 million.

Researchers pointed out that the database had little information about helmet use, whether multiple riders or substance use was involved. They were unable to account for the role of objects, other vehicles, terrain, speed, time of day and distance traveled.

Despite these limitations, researchers called the increases in patient injury, hospitalization and financial burden worrisome.

"The progressive exacerbation of injury severity in scooter-related incidents manifested in a substantial proportion of patients necessitating surgical intervention and potentially having long-term [health issues]," they wrote. "Our findings are a call to action for healthcare leaders to empower themselves in promoting scooter-related injury prevention and greater safety in the community."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about bicycle safety.

SOURCE: UCLA Health Sciences, news release, Jan. 9, 2023

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