A CLOSER LOOK: Electric scooters popular in large cities, but injuries reported

A Closer Look

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Electric motorized scooters are coming to Fayetteville, and while the scooters are popular in major cities, there have been many injuries associated with them.

Act 1015 (formerly HB1619) was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in April, creating the Electric Motorized Scooter Act. The law authorizes the distribution of electric motorized scooters and scooter-share programs across the state.

The Fayetteville City Council will discuss a proposed e-scooter ordinance, Tuesday evening. It’s a necessary step because Act 1015 goes into effect across the state on July 24. The ordinance would allow up to 1,000 e-scooters in the city, with each having a maximum speed of 15 miles an hour.

“We’re trying to look at the benefits,” said City Councilwoman Sonia Gutierrez. “Obviously, we need to think of what is safe for people, but we don’t want to rule out the scooters from coming to Fayetteville, that’s why we want to do a pilot of 1,000 scooters first.”

Major cities across the country, such as Dallas, Texas, has e-scooters, and while they have proven to be a big hit in those cities, there have been numerous injuries.

The Trauma Department at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas conducted research on e-scooter injuries treated at the hospital between July 1, 2018, and Jan. 7, 2019.

The resulting study produced by the Trauma Department found that 88 emergency department visits were for e-scooter injuries. Of those injuries, none of the riders — all between ages 13 and 60 — were wearing a helmet and 33 percent either reported to have consumed alcohol before the accident or screened positive for alcohol consumption.

Of the patients who went to trauma center for e-scooter injuries, 23 patients were admitted into the hospital for extended treatment, 8 were placed in an intensive care unit and one died.

The study states that those of those who were injured, 58 percent had extremity injuries, 43 percent had facial injuries and 35 percent had head injuries.

E-scooter injuries brought a $1.4 million economic burden to Baylor’s trauma center between July 1, 2018 and Jan. 7, 2019.

City officials are taking safety into account, said Peter Nierengarten, Environmental and Sustainability Director for the City of Fayetteville.

“Ultimately, what’s driving this is a state law requiring us to allow scooters in the city, so we’re tempted to put some reasonable regulations and put some level of protection for the citizens and scooter users,” Nierengarten said.

The proposed ordinance mandates that anyone who rides an e-scooter must be at least 16 years old. However, there’s no guarantee that juveniles under 16 won’t gain access to e-scooters, Nierengarten said.

“When you sign up for your account, there is an age/birthday requirement there to verify age. It’s self reported, so people can obviously lie,” Nierengarten said.

E-scooter vendors, including Lime, Bird and VeoRide, have communicated with city officials about bringing their e-scooters to Fayetteville.

VeoRide commuter bikes, including electric bikes, became a transportation staple in Fayetteville after they were introduced to the city in September 2018.

Sgt. Tony Murphy, public information officer for the Fayetteville Police Department, said he is not alarmed by the eventual presence of e-scooters.

“It seems like one of those deals that we’re not going to worry about until we implement it,” Murphy said. “The VeoRide [bikes] really haven’t impacted us aside from laying all over town. We’ll do business as usual.”

The proposed ordinance states that people who rent e-scooters cannot leave e-scooters in such a way that they block sidewalks, block access to a building, impede ADA access or block trails.

“If they’re used responsibly, they can be an effective means of transportation, but there will be issues if they are used in an improper manner,” Nierengarten said.

Brian Thomas, Fayetteville prosecuting attorney, said while there is no precedent for it in Arkansas, it is possible that a person could be arrested for DWI if found riding an e-scooter while intoxicated.

“Looking at our [Arkansas Code], a motor vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is self-propelled, [and] if it’s self-propelled, it may qualify as a motor vehicle for the purposes of DWI,” Thomas said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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