E-scooters may be fun, but are they safe?
You might have experienced a couple of close shaves with death as you evaded e-scooters zipping past you on the sidewalk. It’s safe to say that e-scooters aren’t quite so safe.
E-scooters have swarmed Singapore’s streets in recent years, bringing along with them a wave of scooter-related injuries and even deaths. Each week, about 3 accidents involving e-scooters and other public mobility devices (PMDs) occur in Singapore. That’s definitely three too many, especially when you consider the type of injuries (and even fatalities) that e-scooter accidents can cause.
So why are e-scooters dangerous? Even at the e-scooter’s legal speed limit of 15km/h on footpaths (which will be reduced to 10km/h in early 2019), a collision with an e-scooter packs a dangerous amount of force. A pedestrian who is hit by the device could suffer serious or even deadly injuries – with the elderly and young children particularly at risk. Furthermore, given that it takes time for e-scooters to decelerate and come to a stop, collisions are likely to happen any time a rider sees a pedestrian too late.
Here are the common injuries caused by e-scooter use, and what to do if you or someone around gets hurt in an accident:
1. Traumatic brain injury / Concussion
One of the biggest risks of an e-scooter accident is a traumatic brain injury – which can happen if a rider or pedestrian falls and hits their head on the ground at high speed. The forceful blow to the head causes a traumatic brain injury.
A concussion is perhaps the most familiar traumatic brain injury. Usually a mild head injury, a concussion affects your brain function just temporarily. On the other hand, a severe brain injury – due to injured brain, bleeding into the brain, skull bone fractures or other physical damage to the face and scalp – can result in long-term complications or even death.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury
Signs of a traumatic brain injury may appear immediately after the accident, or hours and days later. They include:
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to hours
- Being dazed, confused or disoriented
- Headache and drowsiness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance or coordination problems
- Speech difficulty
- An inability to focus the eyes, or abnormal eye movements
- Leaking of clear fluids from the nose or ears
What to do: If your head is hit during the accident, go to your nearest hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) where you can be assessed as soon as possible. Remember that traumatic brain injuries are emergencies that need to be treated quickly, or consequences could rapidly worsen.
At the A&E, imaging studies (MRI or CT scans) may be done to diagnose your injury, and a neurosurgeon may be called in to evaluate and treat you.
Even if symptoms only appear after a couple of days from the injury, you should still go to the doctor or A&E as soon as you experience them.
One of the most common scooter-related injuries is a fracture, ie. a broken bone. It can easily be caused by the impact of falling from an e-scooter or colliding with one. Fractures can range from mild to severe, and can be especially critical if it occurs in an elderly person.
Symptoms of a fracture
- Intense pain at the point of injury
- Pain that becomes worse when you move or touch the injured area
- Swelling, redness and bruising
- Difficulty supporting weight with the injured area
- Visible deformity in the injured area
What to do: A fracture often requires emergency treatment, so head to the A&E department immediately if you or the injured person is experiencing the symptoms above.
If you can see an exposed bone, or think that there may be broken bones in the back, neck, or hip, do not move the injured person. Call an ambulance for help.
While waiting for the ambulance, protect the injured area and prevent any movement to avoid further damage. If there is bleeding, apply pressure to stop bleeding.
At the A&E, a doctor may perform x-rays, CT scans or MRIs to diagnose a fracture and check whether other tissues around the bone have been damaged. You may be referred to an orthopaedic specialist who will treat your fracture according to your need.
A dislocation is another common e-scooter injury that can result from a sudden impact to the joint, such as in a fall or collision. It is an injury where a bone slips or pops out of a joint, and commonly occurs in the shoulder, knee, hip or ankle.
Symptoms of a dislocation
- A visibly deformed joint
- Swelling or bruising over the joint
- Intense pain
- Inability to move or pain during movement
What to do: Since a dislocation means your bone is no longer where it should be, you should go to the A&E as soon as possible. Waiting hours before seeking treatment could result in further damage to your ligaments, nerves, or blood vessels.
While you're waiting to go to the A&E, be careful not to move the joint or try to force it back into place.
At the A&E, an x-ray or MRI may be used to confirm the dislocation and assess damage to any other bones or soft tissues around the dislocated joint. You may then be referred to an orthopaedic specialist, who will determine a suitable treatment to move your bones back into their correct position and help you recover.
Another common injury resulting from e-scooter falls and crashes, a sprain is caused by a stretch or tear in one or more ligaments. For most minor sprains, you may be able to recover with home treatment. Severe sprains, such as when the ligament is completely torn, may require surgery.
Symptoms of a sprain:
- Limited ability to move or put weight on the affected area
What to do: If the sprain is mild, it can usually be treated at home using the rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) method. However, go to the A&E for emergency medical help if:
- You're unable to use or bear weight on the injured area and if the joint feels unstable or numb
- You see redness or red streaks spreading out from the injured area
- The injured area has been injured a number of times in the past
- You experience severe pain
When a rider or pedestrian falls and crashes onto the hard ground, they are likely to suffer abrasions – which can range from minor to severe in degree.
Minor abrasions, also commonly known as road rash, are when only the outermost layer of skin (the epidermis) is affected. In contrast, abrasions that affect deeper layers of skin (the dermis) are far more serious and may require intense medical care.
Signs of a severe abrasion that needs medical attention
Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- There is severe pain
- The cut looks deeper than half a cm
- Bleeding is difficult to stop
- The wound looks wide and gaping
- The abrasion was caused by a rusty or dirty object
- Underlying fat globules can be seen through the wound
What to do: If your abrasion comes with any of the above, seek medical care immediately at your nearest A&E. As a rule, any open wound should be treated within 6 hours of the injury.
Ways to ride an e-scooter safely and responsibly
The Active Mobility Act (AMA) governs the use of e-scooters and other public mobility devices (PMDs) in Singapore. If you ride an e-scooter, take note of the AMA guidelines and abide by them to keep yourself safe and avoid posing a danger to pedestrians on footpaths and shared paths.
If an accident occurs and there are injured victims, call an ambulance or head to the A&E department immediately. Trained doctors and nurses are there to provide the medical attention needed for urgent and critical emergencies.
Article reviewed by
Dr Victor Seah, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
Dr Keith Goh, neurosurgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
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