8 Nov 2019

E-scooter injury study: surgeons call for alcohol ban, curfew

8:51 am on 8 November 2019

A study has found 180 people ended up in Auckland City Hospital with an e-scooter injury in the first 19 weeks the scooters were on the road.

Person riding a Lime scooter in Auckland city.

Study author Anna Brownson says consideration must be given to regulating e-scooters' speed. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

It also revealed that the use of helmets was rare and that broken bones made up more than 40 percent of all injuries.

About 17 percent of patients received head injuries, and more than 20 percent were intoxicated, according to the study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Of those with head injuries, 40 percent had been drinking alcohol.

Lead author Dr Anna Brownson said alcohol was a significant factor in injuries, and the figures may be an under-estimate of alcohol use.

"Obviously a huge amount of riders are consuming alcohol and then getting on electric scooters.

"There does need to be some kind of enforcing because what we're seeing is patients who are intoxicated are more likely to get injured."

She told Morning Report there was a huge range of injuries in the patients they studied, including a small group with significant injuries such as skull fractures, rib fractures and intracerebral bleeds. These people would often require long admissions to hospital for treatment.

The majority of people had grazes, abrasions and fractured wrists and they would usually be discharged from the emergency department within four hours.

Most of the injuries occurred after lunch.

Most people fell off the scooter by hitting potholes or a kerb or taking corners too fast. Some ran into bus stops, hit pedestrians or even had crashes involving cars.

"The crashes which were significant - the anecdotal reports are that they were at very high speeds."

She said consideration must be given to regulating the speed of e-scooters. This was already being considered by several councils, Dr Brownson said.

Dr Brownson said helmets were another important area that needed more regulation, as was a night-time curfew.

"Making them unavailable after, say midnight for example, would cut down the amount of users who are drinking and riding," she said.

"I think that would be a simple thing that would be easy to introduce."

She said like every mode of transport there was a risk of injury. Doctors were not calling for a ban on e-scooters - instead they wanted some restrictions and would also advise that people shouldn't drink alcohol before riding a scooter.

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