Falls from “hoverboards,” the popular new motorized scooters, have raised a lot of safety concerns this holiday season, but so far central San Joaquin Valley riders have escaped injury – at least the type of spill that ends with a visit to the emergency room.
The scooters (which roll on wheels) have yet to become widespread on Valley streets, but if their popularity increases, nurses expect to see accidents.
The scooters are pricey (several hundred dollars) and that could be dampening enthusiasm for them in the Valley, said Carlos Flores, a registered nurse and trauma coordinator at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County.
But he expects sooner or later to see bumps and bruises and worse from motorized scooter accidents. From the falls that have been caught on video and widely circulated in the media and on the Internet, Flores said riders could be at risk for lower back injuries and potentially serious head injuries.
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You have a little bit more control with roller skates and skateboards, bicycles.
Dan Allain, director of emergency trauma services, Kaweah Delta Medical Center
Unlike skateboarders, who have one foot in front of the other, hoverboard riders are facing forward with both feet, and there’s a tendency to fall backward, he said.
Registered nurse Dan Allain, director of emergency trauma services at Kaweah Delta Medical Center, agreed. “You have a little bit more control with roller skates and skateboards, bicycles.”
The scooters require coordination to maneuver, and Flores said parents should assess whether their child is mature enough to handle a board.
Flores and Allain strongly recommend helmets for riders and they should “pad up” with protective gear – wrist, knee and elbow pads.
As for reports of some scooters catching fire (airlines have banned them, Amazon has called for strict safety standards and the Consumer Product and Safety Commission is investigating hoverboard-related fires), Fresno Fire Department spokesman Pete Martinez said they haven’t responded to any calls for aid in Fresno. But he recommends that people be present when they’re charging a hoverboard and not to leave it plugged in overnight. And, have a working smoke detector, he said.
If a scooter catches fire, Martinez said call 911 and get out of the home.
Too often people try to put out fires before calling for help, Martinez said. If the fire is really small and you attempt to put it out, use a fire extinguisher equipped for electrical fires, he said. And know how to use the extinguisher.
Beginning Jan. 1, motorized scooter riders must be at least 16 years of age.
Hoverboard riders also should be aware of a new law, Assembly Bill 604, which goes into effect Friday. Motorized boards can only be ridden on streets with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less and on specific designated bikeways.
Riders also must be at least 16 and must wear a bicycle helmet.
Riding a motorized scooter while drunk or under the influence of a drug also is against the law. A conviction is punishable by a fine of $250.
Fresno police Capt. Andy Hall said the department has not had any complaints of hoverboard-related accidents or injuries. The scooters are popular on the Fresno State campus, he said.
There are some good qualities to hoverboards, Hall said. “They’re quiet and zero emissions,” he said.
But the scooter technology is new, Hall said, and the police department will be monitoring it.