AUSTIN, TX — A woman riding an electric scooter sustained potentially life-threatening injuries early Sunday after being struck by a car, medics said.
The incident occurred just before 3 am. along the 70 block of Rainey Street, a popular entertainment district awash in traffic and visitors on any given weekend. The crash victim, a woman in her 20s, was transported to Dell Seton Medical Center with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries, according to Austin-Travis County EMS.
No further details were given. It’s unknown if the woman was wearing a helmet at the time and what type of scooter she was riding. The incident is among the most serious amid a trend of rising injuries since electric scooters were introduced to the market.
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Electric scooters now abound in Austin — with thousands of the vehicles available for users — since Bird was the first to release its 5,000-scooter fleet in April 2018. Since then, at least nine more providers have joined the market fray — Jump, Lime, Lyft, Ojo, Razor, Skip, Spin, Wind Mobility, VeoRide — with 12,400 additional scooters among them.
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Those securing scooters do so through mobile apps engaging their use as users pay to ride them by the minute, leaving them at random locations along walkways after using their use.
In the months since scooter providers entered the market, the toll of injuries continues to mount. In May, Patch secured a list of injuries compiled by EMS that was used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the basis for potential policy guidelines dictating their use. While not exhaustive, the data showed scooter crash injuries during a three-month window from Sept. 25 and Nov. 29 last year amounted to an average of three per day for a total of 166 injuries.
That’s a conservative estimate. Only those incidents that required hospitalization were compiled, and it’s impossible to know how many others have been injured on scooters who opted to treat their own injuries independent of professional medics. Roughly 60 percent of recorded injuries occurred near the Congress district downtown.
Dr. Christopher Ziebell of Dell Seton Medical Center told Patch he’s lost count of how many people he’s treated as a result of scooter injuries. He noted that hardly any of those needing medical treatment had been wearing protective helmets. It’s unknown if the latest crash victim was wearing the head gear.
He spoke of the newness of scooters (an example of "disruptive technology" that has the net effect of changing the status quo) that leaves some users unprepared. "The technology got introduced before anyone got a chance to figure out how to use it," he said. Indeed, scooters descended on the city at such a sudden and brisk pace, that an emergency code was crafted ahead of time to log incidents — a dearth of codifying Patch discovered when first reaching out to the Austin Police Department for a tally of incidents.
In an interview with Patch, Ziebell identified a possible cause for auto-scooter crashes. Unlike bicyclists whose elevation while pedaling while alongside cars makes it clear they’re riding bikes, upright scooter users might be confused for pedestrians. As a result, drivers might miscalculate the amount of time it takes those atop scooters to cross walkways — yielding errors in estimating the speed of walking versus riding on scooters that can achieve up to 20 miles per hour — which could result in collisions.
Ziebell said medical staff see the full range of injuries, from minor cuts and scrapes to serious head wounds. In one local instance, injuries proved fatal. Mark Sands, a 21-year-old Irish foreign exchange student, was killed after crashing into a car just before 1 a.m. in February along the 500 block of North Intestate 35 service road. According to police, a 2006 silver Volkswagen Jetta was traveling southbound in the right lane of the highway service road before changing lanes to enter the ramp of southbound I-35, which is where the collision occurred.