Hoverboards: What You Need to Know Before Buying the Holiday's Hottest Toy

How to make sure you don't get burned by your hoverboard purchase.

December 14, 2015, 12:23 PM

— -- One of the most requested gifts this holiday season, those electric hands-free skateboards known as hoverboards, are coming under scrutiny after several of the devices reportedly burst into flames, causing fires and sending riders to the emergency room.

At issue is whether the lithium-ion batteries powering some hoverboards are causing them to overheat and if some manufacturers are using lower quality batteries to help cut costs. Authorities have seized 164 hoverboards with fake batteries or other counterfeit marks, according to a new report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Fires and Falls

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating 10 hoverboard-related fire incidents in nine states -- Washington, California, New York, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Maryland -- CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson told ABC News. He said the CPSC has already begun testing on various hoverboard makes and models to determine the fires' causes.

In the past three weeks, the CPSC has received more than 30 reports of emergency room-level injuries related to hoverboards. "A couple" of those emergency room visits were related to fires, but the vast majority were general-use injuries, such as falls, resulting in some serious injuries head and arm trauma, Wolfson said.

Before You Buy

Do your research before buying online. Amazon has pulled some hoverboards from its site until manufacturers can prove their batteries and chargers meet safety standards. Butch Browning, president of the National Association of Fire Marshals, warned buyers to "be cautious about purchasing them over the Internet, purchasing them directly from overseas."

While some of these reports may sound scary, a reputable retailer should be able to provide a clear instruction booklet on how to properly use and charge the hoverboard, said Wolfson, who recommends avoiding buying from mall kiosks and websites that are unfamiliar.

Safety First

If you're giving a hoverboard as a gift, don't charge it until you take it out of the box.

"They come partially charged," Wolfson said. "Leave it in that state."

Hoverboard owners should never leave their devices charging overnight or when they're away from home since several of the hoverboard fire incidents have reportedly happened while the devices have been charging.

Finally, protect yourself when riding the hoverboard by wearing a helmet, along with elbow and knee pads.

"We really want consumers to view their hoverboard like a skateboard in terms of gearing up," Wolfson said.

Know Before You Bring Aboard or Ride

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines are banning hoverboards in checked or carry-on luggage. JetBlue has previously prohibited hoverboards.In New York City, hoverboards are banned on streets and sidewalks.

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