San Francisco physicians brace for electric scooter injuries

Shared electric scooters are returning to San Francisco's streets, and a team of the city's trauma specialists wants to track injuries that result from these increasingly popular transportation methods, The New York Times reports.

"I can say that several years ago that I didn't see these types of injuries happening, and now I do," said Catherine Juillard, MD, a trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. "But we have to do the hard work of looking at the data to determine if there's truly a trend."

Earlier this year, thousands of shared electric scooters landed in San Francisco as "pay-as-you-go" vehicles.

After about three months of use, the city issued cease-and-desist orders that temporarily removed scooters from the streets, but they may return as soon as the end of August, when the city issues permits to up to five scooter companies.

Bird, a major scooter company, said it was creating a safety advisory council led by a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The panel will "focus on increasing the safety of people riding slow-speed electric scooters in a car-centric world," the company said.

In a meeting to assess concerns about these increasingly popular transportation methods, Dr. Juillard and her colleagues said they were also worried about possible injuries from electric bikes, mo-peds, hoverboards and Segways.

Chris Colwell, MD, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital's chief of emergency medicine, said he sees injuries from bumps and bruises to life-altering head injuries. These safety concerns emerged almost as soon as the scooters did, according to Dr. Colwell.

"I'm quite confident that we were seeing five to 10 injuries from this a week, and I'm probably underestimating that," Dr. Colwell said. "We saw one or zero a month before the increase in electric scooters."

Hard data about safety risks of these vehicles is advisable, especially as electric scooter companies reach dozens more cities across the U.S., Dr. Juillard said. Bird aims to be in 50 cities by 2019.

"When technology enters transportation, people forget that it also becomes public health," Dr. Juillard said. "It becomes something where human lives are at stake."

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