You've seen them around town, parked in front of restaurants, on the boardwalk and zipping along sidewalks — motorized rental scooters. They're quick, convenient and relatively inexpensive to use. But are they safe? Well, that depends on the user.
Local urgent care departments report daily visits by patients injured using electric scooters and rental bicycles. Reports of broken wrists, twisted ankles, lacerations and head injuries have increased as the use of this by-the-hour mode of transport becomes more common, primarily in areas such as downtown, mid-city and near the beach.
"We see a range of injuries, from head lacerations and sprains to contusions and fractures," says Dr. Jeff Sugar, an urgent care doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "We often see patients come in the morning after a bumpy ride."
So how can you enjoy a rental scooter without injuring yourself or others? Dr. Sugar offers a few safety tips.
Licensed adults only. The first thing to know is that you must be 18 or older and have a valid driver's license to operate one. While California recently repealed a state law that requires adults wear helmets when riding a motorized scooter, they are still a smart choice.
Go solo. Never pair up on a scooter or bicycle. They are designed for a single rider only.
Stay off the sidewalk. "Not only is it illegal in San Diego, riding on the sidewalk increases the risk of falls and injuries from uneven pavement, and puts pedestrians at risk," says Dr. Sugar. Stick to the bike lane or, if there isn't one, to the right of the driving lane.
Follow the rules of the road. The same rules that apply to driving a car apply to bikes, skateboards and scooters:
- Stop at all designated stop signs and traffic lights
- Use hand turn signals with your left hand — straight out to the side for left-hand turns; at a 90-degree angle with the hand pointed up for right-hand turns; at a 90-degree angle with the hand pointed down for stop or slow
- Don't ride at night without proper lighting equipment
- Don't listen to headphones while riding
- Don't drink and ride
"The best thing to do is to use common sense," says Dr. Sugar. "Don't do anything that will put yourself or others at risk."
This story was updated in September 2018 to reflect a change in California helmet laws.