Dec. 7, 2000 -- Nearly 100,000 of those foot-propelled scooters that have become a global fad -- and are sure to be under lots of Christmas trees this year -- have been recalled. Various handlebar defects put riders at risk of losing control and suffering injuries.
About 90,000 Kent Kickin' Mini Scooters are being voluntarily recalled because the scooter handles can come out of the steering column, causing riders to lose control and possibly suffer injuries. Kent International has received four reports of the handles coming out. Four children sustained injuries, including broken arms, a broken wrist, cuts and bruises, and a cracked tooth.
About 7,500 Kash 'N Gold Racer X20 Scooters also are being voluntarily recalled because a plastic joint between the handlebars can break and possibly cause riders to lose control. Two injuries resulting from the joint breaking have been reported -- a bump on the head and a chest bruise.
"On the Kickin' Mini Scooter, a nine-year-old girl broke both of her arms. That's a pretty serious injury," Mark Ross, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, tells WebMD.
Federal safety officials say that about 30,000 riders have ended up in the emergency room with various injuries, with more than half occurring since August.
A six-year-old New Jersey boy was killed when he ran into a car while riding one, and an adult died in Virginia after hitting his head. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says these and other cases add up to a dramatic 18-fold increase in injuries during the past few months.
But federal safety authorities aren't recommending that people avoid scooters. "We're saying that if you do use scooters, that you also use the safety equipment -- the helmet, the elbow and the knee pads -- which we know help reduce the severity of injuries," Ross tells WebMD. "In some jurisdictions, it may be law. And some areas are trying to make it law that children have to wear helmets with scooters."
Still, because of the type of injuries that are occurring, more than just a helmet should be worn. Speaking to WebMD last week, Deborah Mulligan-Smith, MD, a pediatric emergency physician for the North Broward Hospital District in South Florida said because children will outstretch their arms to brace a fall, "a third of the injuries are fractures and dislocations of the arms. [And] we get plenty of bruises, [cuts], sprains, and strains, of course."
And she fears it could get worse: "One of our concerns is that the scooters coming out for the holidays are more high-tech," with some even motorized. "We're worried we're going to see more head injuries."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is just one of many groups calling for the use of basic safety equipment. The American Medical Society recommends scooter riders, especially children and adolescents, wear certified helmets, wrist guards, elbow and knee pads. The medical association also recommends close supervision of riders younger than eight.
A lack of parental supervision has been the major problem with the scooters says Pamela Johnston, spokesperson for the Toy Manufacturers Association: Recently she told WebMD, "the concern is about the parents not following proper safety procedures. There are many good parents who don't know the basics."
Riders also need to stay out of traffic. One of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's primary guidelines is just that, Ross told WebMD last week.
"We want to make sure that the people who have the recalled scooters get the replacement or refund, and that everyone who rides scooters uses safety equipment," Ross says. "That's our main goal, to reduce the injuries that are skyrocketing right now."
Consumers should stop riding both recalled scooters immediately. Call Kent International at 1-800-451-5368 to receive a free replacement handlebar. Return the Racer X20 scooters to the place of purchase for a full refund or a new scooter with a metal joint or call Kash 'N Gold at 800-354-8785.
The recalled scooters stopped being marketed in September. "So any scooters on the market now should be safe," Ross says. The commission is "hoping" that people will buy safety equipment when they hit the stores this holiday season for scooters.