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Are E-Scooters Safe?

October 18, 2023 • April Miller


E-scooters have soared in popularity, especially among people too young to drive and those who want a fast way to get around that requires less effort than using a bicycle. However, some people have raised safety concerns about these vehicles. Are e-scooters safe, and how can riders reduce some of the associated risks? 

What Are the Main Arguments Against E-Scooter Safety?

E-scooters are relatively new. However, as they’ve become more popular, people have gotten more familiar with the aspects that may make them less safe than other transportation options. 

Variations in Laws and Enforcement

Many lawmakers are still discussing what riders can and cannot do while on e-scooters. However, things are already more complicated than you might imagine. For example, in the United States alone, state-based variations exist regarding whether people can use the vehicles on roads or sidewalks. 

Plus, even if the laws exist, that doesn’t necessarily mean authorities will enforce them. Bicyclists in New York City have complained about lax enforcement of e-scooter users following the rules of the road. They particularly take issue with how e-scooters usually move faster than bikes and weigh more. 

Are e-scooters safe when riders know and follow the rules? Yes, but it seems there’s a long way to go until that happens. 

User Carelessness

Many people view e-scooters as fun products and not as vehicles that could injure themselves or others. That’s why it’s common to see people carrying passengers on e-scooters, even though many areas forbid it. Instances have often occurred of adults operating e-scooters while holding children. 

Speaking of kids, many parents think e-scooters make great presents for their children. However, that’s not universally true. Are e-scooters safe for youngsters who’ve already developed responsible habits with kick scooters or bikes? Probably so. However, the risk rises for kids who haven’t learned good behaviors while using other types of vehicles. 

A related issue is that many areas that permit e-scooters do not require users to wear helmets. The rules might strongly recommend people do so, but they don’t mandate it. Then, if users ride e-scooters carelessly and also do not wear helmets, the complications can be significant. 

Less Visibility

A main selling point of many e-scooters is their portability. You could fold one up to put it in a car trunk or bring it on a bus. However, the downside is that most e-scooters are harder to see on the roads due to their compact sizes. 

Then, things get even worse if people ride them while wearing dark clothing or otherwise not doing anything to make themselves more visible. When e-scooter riders are hard to see, they’ll become less safe as a result. People using e-scooters should wear reflective vests and armbands to make it easier for other road users to see them. 

Cybersecurity Issues

Malware attacks are frequent threats in today’s digitally-driven world. They usually occur when people download files from the internet. However, most e-scooters have internet-connectivity features, too. They might show the precise location of a rented scooter or allow the customer to see how many miles they’ve traveled on a given trip. So, are e-scooters safe from cyberattacks?

This is a relatively new risk, but evidence suggests cybercriminals can hack into e-scooters. For example, one study of multiple e-scooters found hackers could take over the electronics, making the vehicle do things without riders’ knowledge. One of the most troubling results was that hackers could lock scooters while being several hundred feet away. Additionally, they could make several scooters inoperable at once. 

Research also indicates hackers could make a scooter’s speed change while it’s already moving. That kind of unexpected behavior would endanger lives. It’s not only cybercriminals trying to hack into e-scooters. Some users are, too. Most cases relate to people trying to turn off the features that limit how fast a scooter can go. Those preventives are there for safety reasons, so trying to circumvent them puts everyone at risk. 

Hazards for Sidewalk Users

As scooter rental companies promoted the convenience of their vehicles, many discussed how people could leave scooters anywhere after they finished riding them. Unfortunately, many users responded by abandoning them on frequently used sidewalks. The issue got so severe that some lawmakers established a penalty system for offenders. At least one e-scooter company is trying to fix the problem by installing docks. 

That approach could reduce the occasions where workers must retrieve scooters for charging or swap out their battery packs. Still, it’s too early to say whether scooter users will avail of the charging points and if these will be widespread enough to make them convenient. In any case, scooters strewn on sidewalks create tripping hazards for pedestrians and could eliminate access for people using mobility aids. 

A Varied Approach to Shared E-Scooter Regulation

A 2023 analysis of how the top 100 global cities regulate shared electric scooters shows some vast differences in approach. The most popular option — chosen by 35 cities — is to ban the vehicles. However, 29 cities don’t yet regulate them. Then, 23 cities enforce regulations for people using shared e-scooters. The remaining 13 locations limit how many people can use them. 

However, an important distinction is that those figures only relate to scooter-sharing activities and not private ownership. Someone’s willingness to splurge on an e-scooter doesn’t guarantee they’ll use it safely. However, the idea behind the rules only affecting shared scooters is that it’s harder to enforce anything happening on a scooter that may get used by several customers per day. 

Banning scooters could have problematic consequences, too. A ban would make it easier to spot offenders. But prohibiting something tends to make some people more eager to participate in it. The same could happen if individuals cannot use e-scooters. 

Are E-Scooters Safe? Users’ Choices Matter 

Life is all about behaving responsibly to reduce risk. Most people know cars are dangerous, so they buckle their safety belts before driving or riding in them. Kids also learn from a young age not to play with matches or other fire sources because of how quickly things could go wrong. 

Nothing is risk-free, but people learn things throughout their lives that help them stay as safe as possible. You can do the same as an e-scooter rider. Use a helmet, wear bright clothes and follow the rules of the road. Learn how to operate all safety features, and don’t try to turn off speed limiters. It’s also important to maintain your awareness by not using earbuds or headphones while riding. 

Finally, besides being aware of what you can do to be safe, recognize how your actions could increase or reduce safety for others. For example, instead of leaving your scooter on a sidewalk after use, lean it up against a tree or otherwise out of the main traffic path. Being thoughtful like that will help you be safe while setting a good example for others.