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National look at injuries for past few years see a big increase in head trauma, lacerations and fractures.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A new national study found that head injuries had increased dramatically during the past few years because of scooter-related accidents.If you're riding one of the many electric scooters around Portland neighborhoods right now, you might want to stop and put on a helmet.

A new national study found that injuries linked to e-scooters across the nation skyrocketed in the past few years. The most common injuries found in the survey: head trauma, lacerations and fractures.

"E-scooters are a fast and convenient form of transportation and help to lessen traffic congestion, especially in dense, high-traffic areas," said Dr. Benjamin N. Breyer, senior and corresponding author of the University of California at San Francisco study of e-scooter-related injuries. "But we're very concerned about the significant increase in injuries and hospital admissions that we documented, particularly during the last year, and especially with young people, where the proportion of hospital admissions increased 354 percent."

UCSF's study was published Jan. 8 in JAMA Surgery. It found that the number of scooter-related injuries and hospital admissions in the United States grew by 222 percent between 2014 and 2018 to more than 39,000 e-scooter-related injuries. The number of hospital admissions soared by 365 percent to a total of nearly 3,300.

About a third of the patients suffered head trauma, according to the study. That's more than twice the rate of head injuries to bicyclists. Women accounted for about a third of the e-scooter injuries. Riders 18 and 34 were most often injured for the first time in 2018, the study found.

Better rider safety

Dozens of cities across the nation have rental e-scooter programs. The National Association of City Transportation Officials reported in April 2019 that e-scooters and rental bicycles were used for more than 38 million rides in U.S. cities in 2018.

The association reported that by the end of 2018 (the most recent year for data), more than 85,000 e-scooters were used by the public in nearly 100 cities.

In December, Portland's Bureau of Transportation extended the Rose City's e-scooter trial until the end of the year. The trial was supposed to end in late April.

Portland has about 3,000 e-scooters on its streets and sidewalks. The transportation bureau said the extension would allow further study of whether e-scooters ease congestion on streets, reduce emissions or can help underserved communities get around, among other factors. The bureau says no additional operators will be permitted during the extended pilot project.

According to a city report, from April 26 to Nov. 30, 2019, rental scooters traveled 1.01 million miles during 954,000 trips, with the majority happening downtown or in the Central Eastside.

In a January 2019 report, the transportation bureau wrote that during 2018, there were about 176 Portland-area emergency room visits related to e-scooter injuries. The report pointed out that during that same time, there were about 3,220 emergency room or urgent care visits for all transportation-related injuries in Multnomah County. Scooter injuries accounted for only about 5 percent of the injuries. The report also pointed out that there were more than twice as many bicycle injury visits compared to scooter injury visits. No one died riding an e-scooter, according to the report.

UCSF researchers previously looked at bicycle injuries using the same data and found scooter riders had a higher proportion of head injuries.

"There was a high proportion of people with head injuries, which can be very dangerous," said Breyer, chief of urology at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. "Altogether, the near doubling of e-scooter trauma from 2017 to 2018 indicates that there should be better rider safety measures and regulation."

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