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Ride at your own risk

by Maddi Dolan

Since the City of Tampa launched its electric scooter pilot in May of 2019, many people have found it as a fun and convenient way to get around town, while others have had experiences ending in unexpected injuries or even death.

Many e-scooters have a sign across the handlebars telling riders to “ride at your own risk,” and for about 140 people that rode e-scooters between the months of May and September, this has been a very real risk.

Tampa General Hospital’s (TGH) emergency department compiles a “scooter injury” report for the general public. Before May of 2019, the report only consisted of injury reports relating to children’s scooters, but since the launch of electric scooters in Tampa, scooter-related injuries have spiked by roughly 700%.

What must also be taken into account is that these numbers are only of those riders that received medical care from TGH or made a report with the Tampa Police Department (TPD) or the Tampa Fire Rescue Squad. It is likely that there have been even more injuries due to Tampa’s e-scooters that have gone undocumented.

Susan Shulins, public relations strategist at TGH, provided a scooter injury statistics report. The BPH-ED is the TGH Brandon Healthplex ED and the Davis Island ED is in the main hospital.

Tampa’s Fire Rescue public information officer, Jason Penny, said that keeping track of e-scooter injuries is a “nebulous tough nut to crack” because dispatch calls are not coded specifically for e-scooters so it’s hard to obtain information. Penny also said that he has told dispatch to let him know if there are scooter accidents so he can make notes in a time log. If the caller states that it is a scooter accident, Penny can do a keyword search to document information.

Ava Setteducato, University of Tampa criminology student, is one individual who injured herself after falling off an e-scooter back in September. On Friday, Sept. 13, around 12:30 a.m she was thrown off an e-scooter after hitting a curb while riding back to campus.

“Me and one of my friends doubled-up on one of the scooters,” said Setteducato. “In high sight, it probably wasn’t a great idea. We hit a curb and both flew off. We both had a lot of scrapes and were bleeding and I sprained my ankle pretty badly.” 

After taking an x-ray and wearing a boot for two weeks, Setteducato said that insurance thankfully covered the cost of her doctor’s visit, but she is still experiencing pain from the event.

Like many others, Setteducato’s injury was caused by breaking one of the e-scooter rules. On the City of Tampa website, it states that a rider may not carry passengers. Meaning, only one person may occupy a motorized scooter at a time. Another cause of injury relates to the speed of the e-scooter. The scooters can reach up to 15 mph, yet helmets are not required. While broken bones are most common, some falls from e-scooters can result in head injuries.

On Thursday, June 27, a police report was made after a 28-year-old woman was ejected from a scooter on Cass Street after losing control for unknown reasons. She suffered injuries after striking her head on the pavement and was treated at TGH.

While TGH and Tampa Fire Rescue documents the injury side of e-scooters, TPD deals with legal matters relating to e-scooters. Tampa Police Department’s public information officer, Stephan Hegarty, said there have been three documented instances where e-scooter riders have been struck by vehicles, one ending in a fatality.

According to police reports, on Thursday, June 20, a man was struck by a semi-truck while riding an e-scooter and died later in the hospital. Both the vehicle and e-scooter rider, John Edgerton, were traveling northbound on 20th St., when the scooter veered into the left lane of traffic for unknown reasons and was hit. Edgerton was transported to TGH where he later passed away due to injuries. While this instance is extreme, another report of a vehicle striking an e-scooter rider ended in only minor injuries.

Hegarty said that TPD doesn’t get many reports dealing with e-scooter injuries. He said that they only “keep track of police matters.”

“We have three categories in our system relating to e-scooters,” said Hegarty. “One of them are violations of the city ordinance which says you aren’t allowed to go on Bayshore ​Boulevard​, the Tampa Riverwalk, or 7th Ave in Ybor. Another category keeps track of impounded scooters, and the last one is accidental injury reports.” 

Many causes of scooter-related injuries relate to not following the rules and guidelines, but TPD is not enforcing these rules. Hegarty said “it’s not our main priority.”

Once the pilot year is over, the city will make a decision about whether e-scooters are going to stay or go based on their positive and negative impacts. The City of Tampa will have to take all injuries into account while making the decision.

Maddi Dolan can be reached at maddi.dolan@spartans.ut.edu

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