Just a few months ago, The Guardian.com an online publication in Australia published an article on “E-scooter safety: Australian states and territories under pressure after spate of fatal crashes”.
It reported that last September 2022, three Australians died while riding e-scooters, doubling the number of fatalities since 2018, when the first rental scheme was rolled out in Queensland. Neither Abou-Eid nor Wallace were wearing helmets when they crashed. Queensland police have been investigating the fatal Brisbane accident.
Sarah Whitelaw, the emergency medicine representative of the Australian Medical Association said doctors were concerned about the increase in fatal head injuries. “They’re different to injuries you would get from roller-blading or playing a team sport,” she said. “They are injuries that require months and months of rehab.”
Whitelaw further said it was important to shift the culture, so that people understood the dangers as they do with motorbikes and bicycles.
“Most of us wear bike helmets not because it’s illegal not to, but because we understand why you have to put one of them on. It might save your life,” she said.
The response from state and territory governments to the rate of serious accidents has so far been limited. However, new rules apply in Queensland from 1 November, allowing “personal mobility device” riders to wear either an approved bicycle or motorbike helmet.
A spokesman for the transport department said, “In addition, a broad public education campaign will begin from late October focusing on helmet compliance, with riders reminded to wear a helmet or be fined.”
But there were other growing concerns, said Kirsten Vallmuur, at the Queensland University of Technology who has been researching e-scooter injuries, where she mentioned that private riders could hack their scooters relatively easily, to go faster than the speed limit.
“One of the things is shared schemes have a speed limit on them. They can’t go over 25km/h,” Vallmuur said.
“With private scooters, there’s more ability for the riders to turn off the speed limitation. Sometimes it’s as easy as flicking a switch. So, if you are travelling at higher speeds, you’re at a much greater risk,” she expounded.
Cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart are trialling the use of shared e-scooters, while Queensland and the ACT allow privately owned and shared e-scooters with regulations, according to the report.
“The purpose of the e-scooter trial is to assess the benefits and risks of e-scooters to better understand whether they can be safely regulated within the broader transport mix,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the New South Wales government said there had been no recorded injuries within the locations allocated for its trial scheme – the western Sydney parklands and the botanic gardens at Mount Annan – and said more locations would be announced before the end of the year.
The report also said that while there is no national database that captures the rates of injuries relating to e-scooters, data from several jurisdictions shows the most common infringement enforced by police relates to riders not wearing helmets.