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The CDC is studying electric scooter injuries for the first time

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Epidemiologists will work with the city of Austin to study injuries related to shareable electric scooters

Controversial E-Scooters Around Los Angeles Stir Debate And Anger Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is examining the rise of injuries related to shareable electric scooters, according to CNBC. The study was launched at the request of the Public Health and Transportation departments in Austin, Texas, where local health officials are seeing more injuries related to scooters offered by popular ride-sharing companies Bird and Lime.

There have been other studies into the spike in scooter-related injuries, but the Austin study is the first to be overseen by federal epidemiologists. Austin Public Health is working with three CDC researchers to examine severe injuries that occurred in the city from September to November 2018. They will be interviewing people who were injured by or while riding an e-scooter “to learn about environmental factors and clinical information,” a spokesperson for the Austin Health Department said. The findings will be publicly available in the spring.

Jeff Taylor, manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with Austin Public Health, said both agencies have completed collecting data and are currently in the process of summarizing various reports.

”There’s a perception that scooter-related injuries occur at night. Well that’s not true,” Taylor told CNBC. “Our study will show they occur during all times of the day. People may also perceive there’s typically a car involved. But our study finds most of the time the rider may hit a bump in the road or they simply lose their balance.”

The rise in e-scooters has prompted some researchers to take a closer look at some of the risk factors. A group of UCLA scientists found that at least 249 people visited two Southern California emergency rooms with broken bones, bumps, bruises, and head injuries — including brain bleeds — from scooter accidents. While most of the injuries were from riding the scooters, some pedestrians were injured when scooter riders crashed into them, and others tripped over scooters while walking.

Scooter-related injuries rose during a pilot period in Portland, Oregon, but most injuries seen by emergency rooms across the city were not severe. E-scooter injury visits accounted for about 5 percent of total traffic crash injury visits during the four-month pilot period. An investigation by Consumer Reports found at least 1,500 people across the country injured as a result of e-scooters in 2017.

Both Lime and Bird have said they welcome the study and will work with CDC researchers in any way they can. Supporters of scooter-sharing will often point out that the number of people injured in scooter-related incidents pale in comparison with the number of people who are injured and killed by motor vehicles each year. A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association determined that about 6,227 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 — a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest mortality rate since 1990.