The ABCs of electric scooter safety: 10 simple tips to avoid falls and accidents while riding
If you’re a city dweller, you’ve definitely noticed the growing number of electric scooters in the streets. Electric scooters or e-scooters are a booming trend, with the global e-scooter market projected to reach $41.98 billion by 2030. In Europe, the second-largest e-scooter market after North America, e-scooter year-on-year unit sales witnessed an 80% surge in 2020.
Unfortunately, with the number of e-scooters growing, so do the accidents and injuries related to their use. The (kind of) good news is that more than 80% of injuries result from falls, meaning it’s in the drivers’ power to improve the situation. Here we’ve prepared 10 simple rules that can help you reduce the risks and dangers of falling and crashing with your e-scooter.
1. Wear a helmet
You may think you’re a skilled and careful rider, but you aren’t in control of everything that happens on the road. While it’s not a legal requirement for people over the age of 16 to wear a helmet in Estonia, you are strongly advised to do so. Consider this – head trauma is the most common type of e-scooter injury (40% of all injuries).
Ideally, your helmet should also have some eye protection. When riding at high speeds, even a tiny bug or a grain of sand in your eye can take your eyes off the road for a decisive split second and be the cause of an accident. While we’ll get to the subject of speed later, make sure that nothing obstructs your vision while you’re dashing along on your daily business.
If your helmet doesn’t have a visor, consider wearing riding glasses that will protect you from annoying insects, sand, dust and improve your vision in the sun.
2. Always ride solo
It sure looks fun to double up on an e-scooter, but it’s dangerous because it disrupts the balance of your ride. Moreover, when riding double, the steering and direction of the scooter are affected because you’re considering both the needs of yourself and your passenger.
Most scooters have a weight limit of 100-120 kg, meaning that you won’t be able to get insurance in case of an accident while riding tandem. And even if the second person on the scooter is a child, it’s still dangerous because there’s no designated place for them to stand or hold on to.
If you’re still not convinced, know this: the Estonian Road Traffic Act forbids you to transport passengers when riding an e-scooter, so you can be penalized if caught doing so.
3. Check the e-scooter before use
Regardless of whether you’re using your personal e-scooter or renting one through an app, always assess its technical condition before use. First, perform a visual inspection of the scooter and make sure there aren’t any signs of damage. Some things to pay attention to:
- Make sure the tires don’t look damaged and have adequate pressure (the quickest way is to give the tire a light kick).
- Check if the lights work and the batteries have sufficient power.
- Check if any bolts or screws aren’t loose.
- Make sure your bell works (according to Estonian law, you must be able to signal other traffic participants).
- As you start riding, test the brakes and throttle.
If you detect any issues on a rented scooter, contact customer service and get another ride.
4. NEVER ride tired or under the influence
This should go without saying, but unfortunately, many scooter accidents are still related to substance abuse. A U.S. study found that one-third of respondents who suffered e-scooter injuries admitted to having consumed alcohol in the 12 hours before getting injured. According to another study carried out in Europe, 55% of e-scooter accidents occur after 8:00 PM, and 35% of people hospitalized after an e-scooter accident had drunk alcohol.
Most people leave their cars home when they go for a drink, but some still believe that it’s acceptable to drink and ride an electric scooter. They can’t be more wrong, though, because they are risking serious fines in addition to putting themselves (and others!) in danger. The Estonian Road Traffic Act stipulates that riding an e-scooter while intoxicated can result in a 180-1200 EUR fine, a vehicle riding ban, or imprisonment in more severe intoxication cases.
On a similar note, never ride an e-scooter when you’re tired or sleepy. Just like when you’re driving a car tired, there’s a risk of slower reaction and lack of focus, and the possibility to doze off for a second.
5. Avoid rainy weather and wet surfaces
Wet, uneven, or rough terrain may impair traction and increase the risk of accidents. In addition to avoiding wet and muddy streets, be cautious when scooting on marble and metal surfaces. Take care when crossing puddles as they could hide potholes and other obstacles.
Avoid riding in winter when temperatures are low and streets are icy. Most scooters have regular tires which aren’t suitable for winter conditions.
That said, it’s not always possible to foresee your route or weather conditions. Whenever you’re faced with wet or slippery surfaces, reduce your speed significantly. If possible, get off your scooter and simply walk through the dangerous terrain.
Also, avoid riding and leaving the e-scooter out in the rain. Sure, it’ll take more than light rain to ruin an e-scooter, but with time, its battery and electrical components can be damaged by exposure to water. If it’s your personal scooter, store it in a garage or shed.
6. Look out for potholes and barriers
E-scooters are intended for use on flat, dry surfaces, without loose rocks, sand, leaves, or gravel. Always try to avoid crevices, potholes, and bumps in the road. Sometimes such obstacles may seem minuscule (especially if you’re used to riding a bike), but they are among the main reasons why e-scooter accidents occur. Compared to a bicycle, an e-scooter’s wheels are much smaller, meaning an e-scooter has much less traction with the surface it’s on.
When you see a pothole or a different kind of obstacle, slow down to avoid it or at least to enter it at a lower speed.
7. NEVER use your phone while riding
When riders get too confident on their e-scooters, they sometimes think they can text or answer phone calls as long as one of their hands stays on the handlebars. This mistake can cost you dearly because it only takes a second for an accident to happen. If you have to check your navigation or urgently respond to a message or call, pull over.
Remember – steering an electric scooter requires no less concentration than driving a car. It’s crucial to keep both of your hands on the handlebars and refrain from using your phone, even if it’s to make a quick phone call. One-hand steering is particularly dangerous on e-scooters because of the smaller contact patch with the road.
8. Limit your speed
It’s easy to get carried away while you’re scooting along the streets with the wind in your hair. Often riders become overconfident and don’t notice they’re speeding. Sadly, there are also reckless riders who ride at maximum speed just because they can.
Rented scooters sometimes have a pre-set maximum speed, ensuring that you stay within the legal speed limit. If you’re riding a personal e-scooter, don’t go faster than 25 km/h, which is also the speed limit in Estonia. If you are a novice rider, start at 15 km/h and gradually increase your top speed when you start feeling safe and comfortable. Mind that not all e-scooters have a speedometer, but it’s always a good idea to ride a bit slower than you’d want to – just in case an unexpected obstacle comes up.
Always reduce your speed:
- when riding in pedestrian areas,
- when riding through heavy traffic,
- during wet weather conditions or uneven terrain,
- when going downhill (to avoid losing control),
- before looking back or turning (to prevent losing balance when your body weight shifts).
9. Use proper lights
When riding in the dark, it’s crucial to make yourself visible to other participants in traffic. The Estonian Road Traffic Act says your ride must have a white light at the front, a red light at the rear, and white, yellow, or red reflectors or lights on the sides. In addition, use reflective clothing to make yourself extra visible. In short – the more lights and reflectors, the better.
Remember – e-scooters are already slim and inconspicuous. Not having enough lights – or having weak ones – can make it harder for others to notice you. If you aren’t sure about the efficiency of your lights, make sure to fix or replace them.
10. Get insurance for e-scooter riders
Getting insurance is always a smart move, regardless of your experience with e-scooters. Accidents come without warning – in fact, 378 accidents involving bicycles or electric scooters have been recorded in Estonia so far this year – and bearing the damage yourself is never worth it.
Cachet offers City rider insurance, created for those who actively use electric scooters to move around the city. Cachet’s insurance helps compensate for damages if you get injured in a fall and helps pay medical bills. It also indemnifies damage caused to others by you while riding an e-scooter – regardless if it’s your personal ride or a rented one.
We also offer a light electric vehicle gig-workers insurance package called “delivery rider insurance” – for those who use a bicycle, electric scooter, or electric bike for delivery work.
Stay safe on your e-scooter!
E-scooters are great fun and also very practical for getting around the city quickly and avoiding traffic jams. But don’t forget that you are participating in traffic, and besides having rights, you also have responsibilities towards other commuters.
In addition to being mindful of other traffic participants, work these safety tips into your daily scooting routine to minimize the risks of getting hurt. Always wear a helmet, check your e-scooter before riding, and use it in the right weather conditions, on suitable surfaces, and at the right speed. To feel even more protected, buy insurance for e-scooter riders.