CDC releases results of scooter study, finds nearly half of injuries are severe

Dr. Robert Buchanan, chief of neurosurgery at Dell Seton Medical Center, recommended that dockless scooter users wear a helmet at a press conference on Aug. 10.

Dr. Robert Buchanan, chief of neurosurgery at Dell Seton Medical Center, recommended that dockless scooter users wear a helmet at a press conference on Aug. 10.

A first-of-its-kind epidemiological study conducted by Austin Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, of those injured while riding dockless scooters in Austin, nearly half suffered severe injuries and 15% had evidence suggestive of a traumatic brain injury.

The results of the study were announced at a May 2 news conference.

“I think this data will help inform future thinking,” said Robert Spillar, director of the city’s transportation department, said at the event, adding that the study results could influence policies and transit planning. “Clearly [these devices] are part of our mobility future.”


Researchers identified injury incidents in the city of Austin from Sept. 5 to Nov. 30 using Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services incident reports and syndromic surveillance data from nine area hospitals’ emergency departments.

Syndromic surveillance is used for early detection of outbreaks, according to the CDC.

Of the 271 potential cases identified during the study period, 192 were confirmed as having been injured by a dockless scooter. Researchers interviewed 125 of individuals and also reviewed medical charts and EMS reports.

The median age of injured riders was 29 years old. Nearly two-thirds identified as white and 60 percent of riders lived in Austin at the time of their injury.

Almost half of the injuries occurred downtown or on the University of Texas at Austin campus, where ridership is most concentrated.

Among the injured riders, nearly half—80 of 190—sustained a severe injury, which included bone fractures; nerve, tendon or ligament injuries; spending more than 48 hours in the hospital; severe bleeding; or sustained organ damage.

Additionally, nearly half suffered head injuries, the study found. Fewer than 1% of riders wore a helmet at the time of injury.

One scooter-related fatality has been reported in the city of Austin, although it occurred after the study period had ended. At 1 a.m. on Feb. 2, a 21-year-old rider traveling the wrong way on the I-35 frontage road was hit by a car, according to police reports.

During the study period, there were a total of 936,110 scooter trips recorded in the city of Austin. Researchers found that there were 20 injuries per 100,000 scooter trips taken.

Researchers concluded that the study “likely underestimates the prevalence of e-scooter related injuries” because it only considered injured riders who had sought medical care at an area emergency department.

On the other hand, the riders who were studied “are believed to experience more severe injuries compared with injured e-scooter riders whose injuries did not require care from a hospital emergency department or EMS,” per the study.

Dockless vehicles, including electric scooters, first arrived in Austin in April 2018. Since then, their use has skyrocketed, even as the city of Austin has paused issuing licenses to new operators and council members continue to fine-tune regulations around these transportation modes.

In March, largely thanks to the South By Southwest Conference, the city saw a new monthly record for dockless mobility trips: 740,476, 93% of which were on scooters. Dockless bicycles accounted for 51,205 trips.

Last month, 513,060 trips were recorded, a 10-fold increase from April 2018, when dockless mobility first launched in Austin.

At the Capitol, state lawmakers are considering regulations for scooters, including prohibiting scooter users from riding on sidewalks and imposing an age minimum of 16 years. Senate Bill 549 passed May 1. Its counterpart, House Bill 4499, was referred to the Transportation Committee March 26.

Meanwhile, Austin City Council was due to vote on enforceable regulations for dockless mobility—including creating “dismount zones” downtown where scooters would not be allowed and requiring riders to obey all traffic laws, such as avoiding use of mobile devices—in late March.

However, council members and city staff decided they needed more time to workshop the ordinance with the community.

A new vote is scheduled for May 23.
By Emma Freer

Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


NBISD workers deliver meals to students at the Veramendi Elementary School meal pickup location March 17. (Courtesy New Braunfels ISD)
Elections, closures, instruction: See what Austin-area schools are doing in wake of coronavirus

During the coronavirus situation, schools have had to make changes in how they deliver instruction, meals, elections and more. Below is a roundup of what local schools are doing to serve students and families.

Balcones Neighborhood Park
Austin closes city basketball courts, tennis courts, skate parks to public

Beginning March 28, all city-owned tennis courts, basketball courts, skate parts and pavilions are closed to the public.

Capital Metro station
All Capital Metro fares will be free throughout April

Beginning April 1, riders will not have to pay Capital Metro operators or use the farebox.

Turnstile Coffee Beer and Spirits
Will they or won’t they? Austin restaurants split on when to open during coronavirus pandemic

While some restaurants have bunkered down to open at later dates, some Austin restaurants are moving forward with service.

Despite heavy restrictions on public gatherings in place, sizable crowds gathered March 24 on the free side of Barton Springs pool, just hours before Austin's stay-at-home order went into effect. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Residents have reported 180 violations since Austin area's stay-at-home order went into effect

No penalties have been issued since the order went into effect March 25.

Austin Public Health officials confirmed the first death from the coronavirus in Travis County on March 27. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First Travis County resident dies from coronavirus

According to public health officials, the woman was in her 70s and had underlying health conditions.

Here is the latest news on stay-at-home orders across the Austin area

Find out if your locale is sheltering in place or what legal consequences the coronavirus is creating in the stories below.

While the agency is still tallying the number of unemployment insurance claims filed thus far in March, in the week prior to March 25, at least 150,000 claims had been filed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Official: Increase in calls for statewide unemployment benefits is ‘almost vertical’

According to Serna, on an average day the Texas Workforce Commission’s four call centers statewide receive 13,000-14,000 calls; on March 22, the agency received 100,000 calls regarding unemployment insurance benefit inquiries.

A photo of five medical workers wearing hand-sewn masks and holding a sign that reads "Thank you #MakeAMask sewers."
Dripping Springs residents pool efforts to create masks for the Austin area with Make-a-Mask Austin

A Dripping Springs medical administrator drafted people from near and far to make sewn masks for staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Half of the Austin City Council called in remotely for their March 26 meeting, their first since strict social distancing measures went into effect. (Courtesy ATXN)
Austin economic relief efforts underway for renters, workers and small businesses following series of City Council approvals

Council members said the approvals represent only the start of coronavirus relief work coming from the city.

The Austin Board of Realtors is recommending all of its realtor members suspend in-person real estate showings until further notice. (Community Impact file photo)
ABoR ‘strongly discourages’ real estate showings

The Austin Board of Realtors is recommending all of its realtor members suspend in-person real estate showings until further notice.

Back to top