Hi-tech foot-propelled scooters have become a global fad. Powered by the energy of the rider, they exercise the muscles and heart. They also require balance to ride on one leg while pushing with the other. Above all, they're fun to ride.
Today's kickboard scooters have small low-friction plastic wheels like those on in-line skates. Made of lightweight aluminum, they can weigh as little as 3 or 4 kg (6 lb) and fold for easy carrying.
No wonder their popularity skyrocketed almost overnight - accompanied, not surprisingly, by a surge in related injuries. In 2000, as millions of Americans took up scooter riding, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported a 700 per cent increase in emergency visits for scooter injuries. Although scooters are equally popular among urban professionals and youngsters, 90 per cent of the injuries were to children under 15 years of age. According to CPSC, protective gear could have prevented or reduced over 60 per cent of all injuries.
Are scooters safe? In use they seem to be as safe as bicycles or skateboards. Similar precautions apply. Most scooters are designed to be ridden on smooth, flat surfaces. The small wheels can get caught in potholes, cracks or grated sewer covers. As with any sport, riders need common sense, skill and the proper equipment, and children must be supervised by a responsible adult.
The high number of children being injured is partly due to trying spins, jumps and twirls. Scooters were not built for daredevil stunts. With a standard platform less than half that of a skateboard and only two wheels, they are less stable than a skateboard, which has four wheels. One fatality has been reported in the US: a six-year-old New Jersey boy was hit by a car in September 2000 while riding a scooter on the street in front of his home.
Scooter Safety Tips
Wear the right gear: protect yourself with a helmet, pads for the knees and elbows, and gloves. Wear shoes with toe protection - never bare feet, sandals or high-heels.
Ride in a safe place: on a smooth, paved surface without traffic. Avoid streets or surfaces with water, sand, gravel, or dirt.
Do not ride the scooter at night or in bad weather.