Austin is calling in the CDC to study the public health risk of scooters

It can hurt.
It can hurt.
Image: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado
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Austin, Texas, is calling in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the public health threat from scooters.

A study involving three CDC specialists will examine 37 scooter-related emergency medical services calls and 68 scooter injuries reported at local hospitals from Sept. 5 to Nov. 4, according to a slideshow presented by Austin’s mobility committee. It’s the first epidemiological study the CDC has done on scooters.

The goal of the study is to inform Austin’s rule-making around dockless electric scooters, including where the vehicles can be ridden and at what speeds. The city authorized six scooter providers to operate a collective 11,000 devices. Austin established preliminary scooter rules in November and plans to review them in February 2019, and to propose additional safety requirements such as “dismount zones.”

Austin public safety commissioner Ed Scruggs expressed interest in studying scooter injuries late last month, noting there was little hard data on the topic. One hospital, Dell Seton Medical Center, told a local news outlet it had seen ”41 severe traumas, including 10 head injuries, 24 orthopedic injuries, five facial injuries, and two other injuries,” since scooters hit city streets in May.

Scooter safety is important, yet you have to wonder if this is the best use of federal resources. If the CDC wants to get involved in tech and startups, why not study the public health risk of social media or double-down on flavored-nicotine seller Juul, both of which are surely more dangerous than dockless electric scooters?

Or how about cars?