In February 2019, Austin became one of the first cities to experience a scooter rider fatality when a UT exchange student was hit by a car while riding on the I-35 frontage road near Sixth Street.
Police are still investigating the case, but it appears that the scooter rider was riding the wrong way down the road, traveling northbound in the southbound lane. While the incident is tragic, it’s also highlighting a growing issue in Austin: the danger of e-scooters. Scooter riders threaten not only their own safety but the safety of everyone on the road when they don’t obey traffic rules or follow basic safety precautions.
In Austin and across the US, scooter riding accidents are becoming more serious. According to Consumer Reports, there were more than 1500 scooter accidents and fatalities in 2018. In Salt Lake City, Utah, doctors say they have seen a 161 percent increase in scooter-related ER visits. In Southern California, a study from UCLA found that there were almost 250 emergency room visits for scooter riders between September 1, 2017, and the end of August 2018.
It’s clear that the introduction of e-scooters is causing a lot of issues on city roads. And it doesn’t seem like the problem will be going away anytime soon; last year, the California governor repealed a law that would require helmets for scooter riders in the state, a move sponsored by popular scooter provider Bird.
For now, drivers will have to find a way to protect themselves against reckless scooter riders. Here’s what you need to know about e-scooters in Austin, and how you can keep yourself safe on the road.
Why Are Scooters So Dangerous?
Scooters are dangerous for the same reason that bikes or motorcycles are dangerous: the drivers are less protected. When two cars are involved in a minor accident, the drivers often only experience property damage with no injuries. The same cannot be said of accidents involving motorcycles and other open vehicles. These drivers are much more likely to be seriously injured.
However, there are some additional factors that may be to blame for the rise in Lime Bike accidents as well.
- Riders are more likely to drink and ride. Most scooter use occurs downtown, particularly around Sixth Street, Rainey Street, and other areas with a high density of bars. Naturally, that leads to riders using scooters while intoxicated. Last Halloween, Austin had its first scooter-related DUI, prompting some to ask whether drinking and scooting is a new trend.
- Helmets aren’t required by law. Although most scooter providers require helmets, in many areas there are no laws requiring their use. Scooter riders who don’t wear helmets are at a higher risk for serious head trauma; one UCLA study found that less than 5 percent of seriously injured scooter riders were wearing helmets at the time of their accident.
- Scooters are new. Many riders will be new to scooters and may not know how to operate them safely. Additionally, riders may be unclear about where and how e-scooters can be used throughout Austin. For more information about that, read our post Electric Scooters in Austin: What Are the Rules?
- Scooters might not be properly maintained. Because scooter maintenance does not occur routinely, or immediately when a maintenance issue is discovered, scooter riders might get on a scooter with a maintenance issue, such as faulty brakes, leading to a crash.
- Scooters are often ridden at night. Many Lime Bike accidents happen at night, when visibility is poor. While scooters have some lights on them (when they are working), the lights are often not strong enough to reveal dangers on the roads or sidewalks.
Austin Is Taking Action to Prevent Scooter Accidents
Although scooter accidents have been taking a toll on Austin drivers, there is hope that the situation will improve. Recently, the Austin Transportation Department and Austin Public Health teamed up with the CDC to produce a study on scooter accidents in our city. The data that comes out of that study will probably influence future scooter riding laws in Austin.
However, it will take time for that study to conclude, and in the meantime, scooter riders and motorists are at risk for serious accidents. We call on both the city of Austin and scooter providers to push for more serious consequences for riders who use scooters negligently. Stricter scooter regulation, such as requiring helmets or ticketing riders who use scooters improperly, would go a long way to curb accidents.
How Can Drivers Protect Themselves?
While we wait for better scooter laws to be passed, there are a couple of actions you can take to stay safe while driving.
- Avoid driving in downtown bar districts. As much as possible, try not to drive around popular bar districts like Rainey Street and Sixth Street on weekend nights.
- Stay alert. Be cautious while driving, particularly in intersections or on congested downtown roads. Stay on alert for scooter riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and other potential hazards.
- If you have been in an accident with a scooter rider, contact an attorney. An experienced law firm like FVF can properly investigate who was at fault in your accident and hold them responsible for injuries and damages.
A car accident can leave you with plenty of questions, particularly when it involves new vehicles like e-scooters. You don’t have to stay in the dark, though. Contact our law office today for a free case consultation and have all your Lime Bike accident questions answered.