CDC: Nearly half of injured Austin scooter riders studied had severe injuries

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied scooter injuries in Austin for nearly three months last year, and KXAN obtained the preliminary results of the study Tuesday ahead of a city release.

The CDC says this is the first study that involved interviewing injured people to try to better understand how their injury occurred and what the risk and protective factors for injuries might be.

Over the 87-day period, 271 individuals were identified with potential scooter-related injuries. The CDC interviewed 158 of these people, and 130 confirmed being injured in a scooter-related incident.

The CDC says almost half of the people identified had a severe injury, such as a broken leg.

Researchers found that 20% of injured riders identified ended up in the hospital. 45% had head injuries, 27% had upper body fractures, and 12% had lower body fractures.

“We’ve seen some people who were a college student one day and were a nursing home resident the next day,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, Emergency Department Director at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

Dr. Christopher Ziebell says Dell Seton Medical Center generally sees 10 riders per day on average, who are injured badly enough to need emergency room care.

He says often the cause of the injury is as simple as the rider hitting a pothole or something else in the road.

“Typically, they’re going 15 to 20 miles per hour when it happens and they become a forward projectile,” Dr. Ziebell told us.

The CDC concluded that a high proportion of scooter-related injuries involved potentially preventable risk factors, such as lack of helmet use, or motor vehicle interaction. 

The CDC said that “interventions aimed at these risks and education to first-time riders could potentially reduce injury incidence and severity.”

Of the injuries reported, the CDC said less than one percent of riders reported wearing a helmet.

“I know some things that we’ve already figured out,” said Dr. Ziebell. “One is that wearing a helmet would be an important thing to do if you want to keep yourself safe.”

Ryan Newburg rides a scooter to class a few times per week, but says he knows people who have crashed riding them.

“I do think it takes an athlete to ride one of these, it’s not easy,” he said. “People definitely fall.”

Newburg also told KXAN he generally doesn’t wear a helmet while riding.

“I don’t consider wearing a helmet, just because I do it to get to class in five minutes,” he said. “If I’m going on a long ride for 30 minutes, sure.”

Last month, Austin city councilmembers postponed a vote to regulate scooters, like bikes, until May.

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