Scooter-Related Injuries Surge Over Summer

Byby David Ho

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 5, 2000 -- They are the fad of the moment — but thosesleek, fold-up foot scooters have sent nearly 9,500 Americans,mostly children, to emergency rooms with injuries this year.

The number of scooter-related injuries has surged this summer,with more than 4,000 in August alone compared with fewer than 500in May, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said today.Children younger than 15 account for nearly nine out of 10injuries.

“These are certainly not your grandmother’s scooters from the50’s,” Ann Brown, the safety commission’s chairwoman, said in aninterview. “Many kids are ending up in hospital emergency roomsinstead of classrooms.”

The safety commission says it had received reports of 9,411scooter injuries this year as of Aug. 27. The majority of injurieswere cuts, bruises and sprains, but a third were broken bones ordislocations, mostly in the arms and hands. Hospitals treated andreleased nearly all of those injured. There have been no deathsrelated to the new scooters.

Dr. Jill Posner, 33, who practices emergency pediatric medicineat Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said she saw her firstscooter-related injury in June, but more have been coming in overthe summer.

“People don’t think about the fact that these scooters can beas dangerous as bikes and skateboards,” Posner said, adding thatshe’s seen children with serious head injuries who were struck bycars while riding scooters.

The scooters, first widely sold in the United States late lastyear, are souped-up versions of the kick-powered scooters madepopular in the 1950s. Their popularity soared this summer and thescooter industry expects to sell 2 million to 5 million newscooters this year, the commission said. That’s at least a $200million business, up from virtually zero sales last year.

Safety Gear Rarely UsedBrown said nearly two-thirds of the injuries could have beenprevented or lessened if the riders had been wearing protectiveequipment. The safety commission recommends scooter riders wear thesame safety gear suggested for inline skaters: a helmet, wristguards and knee and elbow pads. Such equipment can cost less than$35.

But some people doubt the message will sink in.

“No one wears safety gear. I have never seen anyone wear safetygear,” said Kristen Tempel, a George Washington University studentwho owned an older-style scooter when she was younger.

About 100,000 people using inline skates were injured last year,up from about 10,000 in 1992 when they first became popular, saidthe safety commission, which regularly collects information oninjuries requiring treatment in hospital emergency rooms. About60,000 people suffered injuries using skateboards in 1999.

“We’re trying to head off some of the kind of injuries thathappen with inline skates and let people know about the safety gearearly on,” Brown said. She added that children younger than 8years old should not use the scooters without close supervision.

The foot-propelled scooters often have small wheels like thoseon inline skates and lightweight metal frames that weigh less than10 pounds and fold for portability. They usually cost $80 to $120and can be purchased at sporting goods and toy stores.

Some manufacturers have opted for larger scooters with rubberwheels, like the Go-Ped made by Patmont Motor Werks of Livermore,Ca., said spokesman Tim Patmont.

Patmont said his company hasn’t received any reports of peopleinjured using their foot-powered scooters. He blamed the accidentson smaller models with inline skate wheels.

“If you hit a little pebble, that’s all it takes for you to godown,” Patmont said.

Kids aren’t the only one using the scooters—college studentsand commuters in cities from New York to San Francisco have alsoturned to the kick-powered transportation trend.

The scooter revival has also spread around the world from HongKong to Switzerland. They have become extremely popular in Israel,where a ban was imposed on children taking scooters to school inJerusalem after one child was seriously injured.

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