As electric scooters become ubiquitous in cities and a practical alternative to public transport, accidents relating to their use are on the up. One-third of these are down to riding under the influence of alcohol.
The finding has been revealed in a study by the Brussels Saint-Pierre university hospital, which examined the circumstances of accidents – most of which happen after 18:00 and involve under-25s.
Dr Youatou Towo, head surgeon in the emergency department, led the study. He noted that although the pandemic saw a decrease in the use of e-scooters, there were still 170 patients admitted because of accidents. 75% of these rented electric scooters occasionally.
The impact of alcohol
Regardless of whether one rides their own scooter every day or rents one from time to time, alcohol has a huge impact on handling. Most accidents occur after working hours and of these, one-third of riders had been drinking. 15% involved two people riding the scooter at once.
Alcohol impedes reflexes and increases the risk of falling. 84% of the accidents were due to a lack of rider attention, poor road conditions or bad lighting, not because of other road users.
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Only one of the 170 patients had to be admitted to intensive care; 60% had upper limp injuries. The rest were injured around the lower half of the body and the chest.
"If you fall, your reflex is to protect yourself with your hands," explained Dr Towo, although that reflex is diminished by alcohol consumption.
Protect your head
Almost all accidents involved people not wearing a helmet. Only 6.5% of patients admitted during the time of the study wore a helmet.
"Not surprisingly, the head injuries without a helmet are more severe," stressed the surgeon, who urged public authorities and scooter rental companies to raise awareness and introduce fines for those who ride under the influence.
The Mobility Committee in Belgium recently approved a proposed law regulating the use of electronic scooters in the public. This now makes it illegal for two people to ride a scooter at once. In addition, people under 16 will no longer be allowed to ride electric scooters and pavements will be off-limits.
Wearing a helmet is recommended but not mandatory.