I was in a taxi the other day and, as you do, got talking to the taxi driver.
We had a close shave with an e-scooter and it prompted him to say that he was losing business on Friday and Saturday nights to e-scooters. He didn't quite say it that politely but his take was that the prevalence of e-scooter trials on the streets of some of our major cities made it easier for young 'uns to open their app, jump on an e-scooter and use it to get home.
It started me thinking whether or not there was anything that might back up his view, and I came across research published in the BMJ's Emergency Medicine Journal in June of this year entitled E-Scooter Incidents in Berlin: An Evaluation of Risk Factors and Injury Patterns.
The researchers analysed all patients involved in e-scooter incidents from June to December 2019 who presented to four inner city emergency departments in Berlin. They obtained patient related and incident related data. 248 patients (129 males with a median age of 29 years) were included, and in two of the four emergency departments, separate data was collected in relation to 120 individuals as to whether they had a driving licence and/or previous experience in riding e-scooters.
I will return to that separate voluntary survey later on, but in relation to the main survey some of the results were strikingly similar to the far-less-detailed DfT's e-scooter fact sheet for 2020 which you will find analysed here.
In Berlin it was noted that the peak of e-scooter incidents occurred in the afternoon between 12 noon and 6 pm (40%) and in the evening from 6 pm until midnight (29%). In addition, backing up what my taxi driver was saying, there was a notable increase in e-scooter injuries on weekends between Friday afternoon and Sunday night (58%).
In terms of accident causes, most e-scooter riders reported that they fell off because they had lost control due to intention, single-handed riding, lack of practice or inappropriate speed. On the positive side, impacts with other vehicles was low by comparison. Pedestrians were injured in 12 cases (5%) either by getting hit by an e-scooter (n = 9) or by tripping over a parked scooter (n = 3).
Limb injuries were recorded in 178 patients and made up the majority of all injuries (72%). In total 135 head injuries (some patients had multiple injuries) were recorded. All head injuries were divided into soft tissue injuries (27%) fractures (19%) and tooth damage (17%). Fractures affected the mid-face and mandible areas with the exception of one skull fracture. One patient had an intracerebral haemorrhage.
TBI was defined as a head injury with resulting loss of consciousness reported by the first helpers, the ambulance service or in the case of amnesia.
Among all patients, 32 (13%) had concomitant TBI of mild severity, and 22 of them required hospital admission.
Backing up the theory that they were being used as a cheap way to get home after the pub, in 49 patients (20%), the alcohol breath test was positive. Among the patients testing positive for alcohol consumption, 15 patients had TBI (31%). A positive alcohol test was associated with a fivefold increase in the odds of TBI and a twofold increase in the odds of inpatient admission.
Only 1% of the e-scooter riders wore a helmet although given the mechanism of many of the head injuries, a traditional cycling-type helmet may not have assisted. E-scooters are often compared with bicycles but whereas most studies of bicycle related incidents reported collisions with motor vehicles as being the major cause of incidents, the majority of e-scooter incidents reported in this Study occurred without external influence and were related to inattention of the e-scooter users or violation of traffic regulations. Only 12 (5%) of the incidents analysed by the Berlin team involved the e-scooter rider being hit by a motor vehicle. In contrast, up to a quarter of e-scooter incidents took place on pavements with many involving injuries to pedestrians. Typically the rider loses stability when hitting the curb to get onto the pavement and then the e-scooter's front wheel, which is small in diameter, acts as a fulcrum: it explains a lot of the face-plant type injuries identified in the study.
So was my taxi driver right?
I think it's fair to say that he was making a very good point which in some respects is borne out by this Study. There is a prevalence of e-scooter accidents evident at the weekend and alcohol plays a significant part in a high proportion of those.
Steamed and riding an e-scooter home with no helmet… for crying out loud, does it get any more stupid?