Helmets on eScooters: Italy plans new safety rules after boy's death

Although speed limits and pavement bans are commonplace for eScooter riders, helmets remain recommended but optional in most countries, despite much research suggesting that they are vital. — dpa

Electric scooter rental companies like Lime and Bird might remind riders to wear a helmet, but in the vast majority of cities around the world, it's only recommended.

And yet skull fractures, lacerations and brain injuries are just a few of the common injuries that emergency rooms have noted in eScooter riders involved in accidents.

Following the death of a 13-year-old boy in an eScooter accident in northern Italy, the mayor of the city of Sesto San Giovanni has now introduced a helmet requirement and a speed limit for the popular mode of transport.

This would make Italy one of the few places in the world, alongside France and parts of the US and Australia, to require a helmet on an eScooter.

Adults only and helmet requirement

The case in Italy was reported by numerous media outlets and restarted a long-running debate about the hugely popular but also widely disliked scooters.

According to media reports, the teenager was riding on a bicycle path in the city, which is part of the Milan metropolitan area, on Monday afternoon. For reasons as yet unknown, he fell and later died in hospital of his injuries. He was reportedly not wearing a helmet.

From December 1, the city of Florence plans to introduce a compulsory helmet requirement for eScooter riders, tweeted Mayor Dario Nardella.

In Italy, as in many cities where eScooters are flourishing, this mode of transport is seen as both modern mobility and nuisance, blocking pavements and threatening elderly when teenagers ride them on the pavements.

Now the country's transport officials are working on a bill to limit eScooters to those aged 18 years or more and to enforce helmets. In addition, riding with more than one person on an eScooter will be prohibited and met with fines between €50 (RM246) to €250 (RM1233).

The scooters would also no longer be allowed to be parked on pavements, but only at special points.

Deaths and injuries

Although speed limits and pavement bans are commonplace for eScooter riders, helmets remain recommended but optional in most countries, despite much research suggesting that they are vital.

Lacerations, dislocations, skull fractures, brain injuries, contusions, spinal injuries, dental injuries and burns are among the most common eScooter injuries listed in a January 2021 meta-study by Canada's public health authority.

The mobility trend that has swept cities across the planet has been accompanied by many thousands of injuries, mostly among younger people, several studies have shown.

In further evidence that eScooters are a potentially fatal way of getting around, officials in Germany say five people were killed alongside hundreds injured in more than 2,100 serious eScooter accidents across the country in 2020.

The figures are reflected elsewhere in places where eScooters have become an everyday means of getting around the city. A 2020 study in the US warned of a "dramatic increase in injuries" during the initial boom of eScooters after 2017.

A meta-study by Canada's public health authority in the state of Ontario paints a picture of the most common accident scenarios: Falls, loss of balance/control, collision with a vehicle, collision with an object (e.g. pole, gate), collision with pedestrians, excessive speed, road condition (e.g. uneven surface), scooter malfunction and dual riders.

If you're not wearing a helmet, then make sure to at least maintain a steady position and stand as far back as possible with your knees slightly bent.

It's also essential to avoid braking abruptly, which can send you flying over the handlebars. Instead, reduce your speed and drive very, very cautiously if you want to avoid tipping over into the street.

The wheels don't always have the best traction, so when you're trying to brake on a wet or slippery surface, be sure to use both the front and rear brakes – if you have both, of course – to avoid losing control. – dpa

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