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Motor Scooter-Related Injuries May Be Increasing


WebMD Health News

Aug. 22, 2001 (Washington) -- It's time again for a warning about scooters, but this time it's the motorized kind.

Injuries associated with the popular motorized scooters are on the increase, and at least three deaths have been attributed to the vehicles, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, reported Wednesday.

Motorized scooters, which can be ridden standing up but also come with a seat option, are similar to push scooters but have a gasoline engine or electric motor attached. They can reach speeds of 20-30 miles per hour and come equipped with front and rear brakes. Generally, the scooters are marketed to children and adolescents, although some adults use them for transportation to work.

The CPSC used reports from 100 hospitals across the country to estimate that 2,250 motor scooter-related injuries severe enough to require a visit to an emergency room have occurred in the first seven months of this year.

If this rate continues for the remainder of the year, the total ER-treated injuries for 2001 would "show a marked increase over" the 4,390 ER-treated injuries reported last year, the governmental agency said. This would continue the trend of increase in injuries due to the scooters; the number of injuries last year was nearly twice the number reported in 1999.

CPSC spokesman Mark Ross tells WebMD that there are probably many more minor injuries due to motorized scooters that are treated at home and that go unreported.

Nearly 40% of the ER-treated injuries involved children under 15, Ross says. Fractures were the most common injury. This is similar to last year's injuries, he says.

The three deaths involved two children and one adult man. All three suffered head injures, and none was wearing a helmet. One of the children, a 6-year-old boy in California who fell off his scooter, died just last month, Ross says.

"Common sense requires that riders of all ages understand the importance of protective gear and observing local safety rules," said Ann Brown, CPSC chairman.

The CPSC said the scooters are increasing in popularity. But Ray Plato, manager of Extremetoys.com, which sells several brands of the scooters and bills itself as "the motorized scooter authority," rejects that notion. Sales for most manufacturers are down this year due to "bad press" and the slumping economy, he tells WebMD.

Plato also feels the CPSC is making the scooters out to be more dangerous than they actually are. "I can count the injuries I've heard about on one hand," he says. "Bicycles have far more injuries associated with them."

The CPSC recommends that children under 12 should not ride the motorized scooters because they may lack the quick decision-making ability or maturity to deal with traffic, Ross says. He notes that some states and local jurisdictions have passed laws requiring a driver's license in order to operate the scooters.

The agency is also concerned about nonmotorized scooters. Through July of this year, more than 68,000 injuries requiring ER visits have been reported, Ross says.

To prevent injuries on motorized or nonmotorized scooters, the CPSC makes the following recommendations:

  • Wear knee and elbow pads and a CPSC-approved helmet, all of which can be had for less than $35. Helmets meeting CPSC's standards will note that on the box.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.
  • Do not ride at night.

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