As many cities and states debate the potential of regulating the nascent dockless e-scooter industry, earlier this month saw the first two fatalities from accidents involving these increasingly popular personal vehicles.
The First E-Scooter Fatality in Dallas
Unfortunately, what is quite possibly the first-ever fatality related to dockless e-scooters happened in Texas. According to Dallas Police, a 24-year-old man named Jacoby Stoneking died after being involved in an e-scooter accident early on the Sunday before Labor Day. He rented the Lime e-scooter after working a late shift at his job, but before he could reach home, Stoneking called his roommate, Kenneth Moore and asked him to send a Lyft ride to where he was located. According to Moore, Stoneking sounded angry and irritated and said he had injured his foot. Immediately after the phone call, Moore ordered the ride.
However, when the Lyft driver arrived at the destination, Stoneking was found to be unresponsive. According to police, he was covered in scrapes and the Lime scooter had been broken in half and was sitting against a curb nearly 500 feet away. An ambulance transported Stoneking to Baylor University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:41 p.m. Sunday. The Dallas County Coroner did not determine the exact cause of death immediately.
Although it is certainly not the first accident, Stoneking’s death could very well be the first fatality linked to the dockless electric scooter industry, which is modeled after the dockless bike share industry, and which often features the same companies. In fact, in Dallas, these companies largely abandoned the bike share programs when the city passed new regulations to limit the frequency of bikes littering Dallas streets and to raise a little more revenue for the city. In their place, electric scooter companies like Lime started dropping their products off back in July.
How Should E-Scooters be Regulated?
In addition to Dallas, electric scooters are being tested in about a dozen or so other cities, and they are being considered in a number of others, including San Antonio. Electric scooters can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour and experts are beginning to sound warnings, that the risk of injury or death is very real. Riders in Dallas, San Francisco, and several other cities have reported broken bone injuries in recent months.
Dallas Police are not sure what caused the accident, but in addition to looking into a spontaneous accident, they are also looking into the possibility of a hit-and-run, although officers found no other debris at the accident scene except scooter parts. Lime, the company whose scooter Stoneking rented, put out a statement saying they were “saddened” by the accident and the death and offering their “thoughts and sympathies.
For his part, Moore has told reporters that he is struggling to understand his roommate’s death and puzzling over the circumstances. He explained that, during the phone call, Stoneking insisted that he only hurt his foot and said there were no other injuries, and yet he died of a head injury.
In Washington, DC, a Second Fatality
Then, on September 21, in Washington, DC’s DuPont neighborhood, another electric scooter rider was killed when an SUV ran them over. The DC Metro Fire Department had to extract the victim from the vehicle’s undercarriage. While Washington, DC officials aren’t ready to ban these vehicles, with the use of e-scooters on the rise in many cities, it is probably past time to come up with regulations that make sense. Lime and their largest rival Bird, recently announced their customers have taken more than 10 million rides to date and that number is only going to go up.
Given the vulnerability of the riders of vehicles, and with city after city regulating e-scooters off the sidewalks as a way to protect pedestrians, e-scooter riders are forced to share the road with big, bulky and fast-moving machines like pick-ups, SUVs and large commercial trucks. One regulation that probably should be passed and enforced is one requiring a helmet to ride a scooter in traffic. And yet, California just passed a law, which Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law, that will no longer require scooter riders to wear a helmet beginning next January 3.
According to medical experts, hitting one’s head at e-scooter speeds is more than enough to cause serious brain trauma or even death. While riders may feel safe on a vehicle they see as something of a toy or a recreational vehicle like a bicycle. However, an accident on an electric scooter carries with it the potential for very serious injury. It’s time for governments with these electric scooters on the streets to do everything they can to make sure they are able to be used as safely as possible. One proposed solution is to have e-scooter lanes, separate from sidewalks and driving lanes, to protect riders.