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Man riding a scooter.

4 rules for riding a scooter

Electric scooters are fast, fun and easy to ride. But do you know how to stay safe when using one?

Awareness of your surroundings is key to scooter safety, says Stephen Smith, M.D., a Piedmont orthopedic surgeon. Since rental scooters first appeared on Atlanta streets, Dr. Smith says he’s seen a big spike in patients involved in scooter accidents.

Hip, wrist and shoulder injuries are common, and they may require surgery and subsequent physical therapy. Scooter accidents can also cause dangerous head injuries.

But Dr. Smith understands the appeal of scooters, and he likes them so much he bought one for himself. The problem isn’t the scooters themselves, Smith says, but the places and ways people ride them. Sometimes, what seems safest or most convenient may not be the proper way to ride.

Here are Dr. Smith’s tips for staying safe:

Wear a helmet.

“One of the problems is that even though the scooter companies categorically advise the use of a helmet, almost no one wears them,” Dr. Smith says.

It’s easy to forgo a helmet, he acknowledges, when rental scooters are meant to be picked up spontaneously. But helmets can prevent serious injuries like concussions, and as Dr. Smith points out, scooter users are much likelier to be hurt in accidents than drivers are.

“You’re taking a really big risk if you ride without a helmet,” he says.

Watch out for other vehicles and pedestrians.

Whether you ride on the sidewalk or the street, you won’t be the only person commuting. Scooter riders face heightened risks in a car-centric city like Atlanta, Dr. Smith says.

“Motorists are just not used to looking out for scooters or bicycles,” he says.

But scooter riders can cause accidents and hurt people as well. Though riding on a sidewalk may seem safer to you, pedestrians you’re zipping toward will probably feel otherwise. Stay alert and respectful.

Check the road (or sidewalk) for bumps. 

Although scooter companies encourage renters to stay on the road, Dr. Smith knows many people ignore that advice. Sidewalk cruising can be risky in Atlanta, where plenty of sidewalks aren’t well maintained.

“The sidewalks have a lot of irregularities, potholes and unevenness,” Dr. Smith says. Wherever you ride, watch the ground in front of you.

Don’t ride in the dark, and never ride drunk. 

Seems obvious enough, right? Maybe not. With scooters available for nighttime rental, Dr. Smith says, some people ride home in the dark following a long night of drinking. That’s a double whammy of danger and should always be avoided.

If you do get hurt on a scooter and are unsure whether you need treatment, consider the location and severity of your injuries. Go to the emergency department if your head is impacted, Dr. Smith says, particularly if you suspect a concussion. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding around the head
  • Memory loss
  • Persistent headache
  • Vision changes

Some bumps and bruises will heal themselves, Dr. Smith says, but it’s important to monitor your body in the hours and days following an accident. If you notice ongoing or increased swelling, can’t rest weight on an extremity, or experience significant pain, it’s time to visit a doctor.  

Dr. Smith is uncertain about the future of scooters. While they’re convenient in urban areas, he says that too many cities (Atlanta included) still lack the infrastructure to help keep riders safe. Bigger bike lanes and smoother streets could play an important role in reducing injuries, he says.

Even so, he doesn’t expect people to abandon the scooters anytime soon, and Dr. Smith doesn’t plan to quit riding himself. Sometimes, he’ll ride his scooter to work at Piedmont Atlanta.

“It definitely is a quicker commute if I take my scooter than if I take my car,” he says.  

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