San Antonio Fire Department Data Shows Surge in E-Scooter Injuries

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A scooter operatior crosses Alamo Street at Commerce.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Electric scooter riders cross Alamo Street at Commerce.

Fractures, head injuries, cuts, and bruises are among the injuries sustained by electric scooter riders during the last four months, according to emergency calls received by the San Antonio Fire Department.

The fire department responded to 83 calls from people who either sustained injuries or witnessed mishaps; nearly two-thirds resulted in transport to area emergency rooms.

SAFD began collecting injury data Sept. 25 following an uptick in emergency calls since the first electric scooters appeared on downtown streets in June.

SAFD data on scooter-related injuries represents a small fraction of the injuries sustained by riders zipping throughout the streets of San Antonio at speeds up to 15 miles per hour. A local, free-standing emergency room on lower Broadway recently reported seeing anywhere from one to three patients with scooter-related injuries per day.

With more than 14,000 permitted vehicles and about two-thirds of them on San Antonio streets every day, mostly in the urban core, the opportunity for scooter-related accidents are at the turn of every corner.

“We can cast a broken arm, but the thing that presents the greatest concern is the potential for brain or spinal cord injury,” said Jennifer Northway, director of adult and pediatric injury prevention at University Health System.

Two people sharing a scooter, especially an adult and a child; riding without a helmet, and riders being unfamiliar with downtown San Antonio’s one-way streets contribute to the rash of injuries, she said.

For their part, dockless vehicle companies Bird, Lime, Razor, and Blue Duck ask riders to abide by traffic laws and speed limits, ride in designated areas, wear a helmet, use caution, and watch for pedestrians. Other operator rules vary by company, and include an 18-year-old age minimum for riders, one person per scooter, to not ride after drinking alcohol, and to refrain from using the phone while riding.

However, the fire department data shows that among the injured are young teenagers and people who reported consuming alcohol before the ride. For those who were reported to have lost consciousness after falling off the scooter sent them flying head-first into the nearest tree, car, or sidewalk, helmets might have lessened the severity or injuries.

A rider uses an electric scooter on sidewalks near Main Plaza.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A rider uses an electric scooter on a sidewalk near Main Plaza.

On a recent afternoon, Adam Garcia and his younger brother were preparing to board Bird scooters that would take them from Blue Star Arts Complex into downtown by way of the San Antonio River Walk. Asked if he had ever been injured when riding, Garcia, a frequent scooter user, said he had not, but there had been close calls.

“I try to ride on surfaces that are smooth and flat [to be safe], but if it had rained and there’s mud, or if you turn too [quickly] … it’s easy to fall,” Garcia said, noting that he has friends who sustained minor injuries after taking a tumble.

Neither Garcia nor his brother were wearing helmets. Asked if he would wear helmet if it was required, he said “maybe,” followed quickly by “no.”

“If I’m saying the truth, I really don’t think I would,” he said.

As e-scooters have proliferated in warm-weather cities, health researchers are beginning to track injuries. A new study published Friday found that of 249 people seen in two Southern California hospitals within a year following electric scooter accidents, 92 percent were riders themselves, and only 4 percent of the riders wore helmets. Head injuries were the most common complaint at 40 percent, followed by fractures at 32 percent, and cuts, sprains, or bruises at 28 percent.

The research, published in Open Network – one of 13 journals published by the American Medical Association – is the first published medical study on injuries caused by electric scooters.

An increase in emergency room visits in San Antonio and elsewhere has prompted conversations among health care providers about petitioning to add new diagnostic codes for scooter-related injuries for medical billing and coding. Currently, electric scooter accidents are recorded under various codes and categories, making it difficult to determine exactly how many people were injured on the dockless vehicles, Northway said.

“All of the hospitals in San Antonio have been trying to figure out what we can do collectively to address the issue we are seeing with [electric] scooters, what we can do to quantify the injuries we are seeing across facilities, and what populations they are affecting,” Northway said. “Once we have those data points, we can better see how big of a trend this is.”

8 thoughts on “San Antonio Fire Department Data Shows Surge in E-Scooter Injuries

  1. So this careless person won’t wear a helmet and on top of that apparently will ride on the River Walk. That’s not even legal but I suppose he doesn’t care about that either.

  2. Unfortunately the greatest danger is a head injury. The companies do not provide a helmet and the riders clearly will not be carrying a helmet around. It will probably take serious head injuries and litigation to better understand the complexities that this mobility innovation has created.

  3. I Live in Lincoln NE where the city is currently considering e-scooters. Nebraska is a state that requires helmets for motorcycles but not for bikes and it doesn’t appear that there will be any requirement for scooters either. It,will be impossible for anyone to enforce any minimum age requirements, one on a scooter, etc. The problem with these things is that in today’s climate the number of and types of injuries (40% head injuries) indicate that,there clearly are some safety issues that need to be addressed. Those that say,let those that are injured suffer the consequences is great except for driving up the cost of medical care for all, (insurance prices) and the issue of liability when an accident occurs. My community is proposing not allowing to be,ridden onsidewalks or where there is pedestrian traffic, which makes sense to me, btmI certainly don’t want them riding intraffic with 5000 lb. or 60,000 trucks either.
    I think it’s a mistake to expose licensed drivers or insurance to the risk these basically unregulated scooters will add.

  4. I don’t see a problem. I see a city that is finally catching up to others in the world of tech. San Antonio’s economy for a long time has been based upon construction and manufacturing. Awhile back we got Rack Space possibly showing that San Antonio wouldn’t have to remain in the roll of the smaller sibling (tech wise) to Austin anymore. Right? Nah, who even hears of Rack Space anymore? No one. Austin enjoys the benefits of jobs related to tech through companies such as Samsung, AMD, Apple and 3m. San Antonio’s economy on the other hand is based mostly on hospitality and construction/manufacturing. I hope these “e scooter” companies are here to stay. Google, Uber, Lyft, Ford and other heavy hitters in business/tech have there eye and investments on last mile transportation. FYI, Uber and Google have large investments in both Lime and BIrd. What solution has our own city provided? A few bike racks that are a joke and bus stops that are very much comparable. I rode a scooter today for over 3 miles in 20 minutes. If I chose to ride the bus for 3 miles instead, just waiting for it may take 20 minutes. In contrast I paid $4 dollars instead of just about $3 in bus fare. All day long I will take the scooter. If we have to put up with something “looking ugly” (which it doesn’t) for a little bit while the kinks are worked out and bigger tech companies start to notice us. Why in the world would we ban them? Please keep these companies here. People rely on them for jobs and transport.

  5. Remember, The total injury count was lol 68 back in November… Oh boy what a surge. Do you guys also project surges in injuries related to little bys riding bikes?

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