entable dockless electric scooters (e-scooters) are shared electric-assisted scooters that are an emerging transportation modality being introduced in cities nationwide. E-scooters are rented for short periods of time via a phone application, have a narrow platform where the rider generally stands with one foot in front of the other, and travel at speeds up to approximately 15 miles per hour. In early April 2018 e-scooters first appeared in Austin, Texas. From September 5 through November 30, 2018, a total of 936,110 e-scooter trips were taken. These trips were associated with 182,333 hours of e-scooter use and 891,121 miles ridden on e-scooters.
Concurrently with this appearance, doctors at local hospitals and the local emergency medical services began observing injuries associated with this emerging mode of transportation. This was not unique to Austin. In January 2019, researchers from Los Angeles, California published findings characterizing injuries associated with e-scooter use among patients seen at two emergency departments.
To further advance knowledge on the public health impact of e-scooter use, the Austin Public Health Department (APH), with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, launched an epidemiological investigation to collect data on injuries involving rentable dockless electric scooters in Austin. In addition, to identify risk factors associated with injuries telephone interviews were conducted with injured e-scooter riders. This is believed to be the first study to conduct interviews with injured e-scooter riders.
Following sections on methodology and results, this report discusses implications of the research and concludes with proposals as "next steps" in light of the limitations and findings of the study:
- Establish and strengthen injury surveillance related to emerging transportation vehicles. Questions will be asked about the risk of and types of injuries associated with the potential increased use of electric scooters, electric skateboards, unicycles, and Segway-type vehicles. Routine surveillance for injuries will be needed.
- Increase the frequency and methods of educational messages on safe e-scooter riding practices. These educational messages should emphasize both wearing a helmet and maintaining a safe speed while riding an e-scooter. Educational messages should especially target young adults 18 to 29 years of age.