Electric Scooters: Convenient, But Hazardous

A man in a suit rides an electric BIRD rental scooter along a city street in San Diego, California

Regulating Electric Scooter Use in Atlanta

20-year-old Eric Amis Jr. was a young Atlanta resident studying for his GED while working two jobs to help pay the bills. He was an active member in his church community and was dearly loved by both friends and family. On the early morning of May 17, 2019, Amis finished his evening shift at a local Atlanta hotel and made his way to the West Lake MARTA station located off of West Lake Avenue in Fulton County, Georgia. He was only a few blocks away from home and decided it’d be faster to hop on an electric scooter (e-scooter) instead of walking. Amis seamlessly activated a Lime scooter and pulled out into the road from the station when he was suddenly struck by a red Cadillac SUV. Upon impact, his body launched into the air before coming to a violent tumble onto the road.

Amis was immediately rushed to the emergency room and was pronounced dead shortly after. His was a tragic and devastating death: the first deadly scooter-related accident in Atlanta. The driver of the vehicle that hit Amis cooperated with police and was later arrested and charged with second-degree homicide. In the initial report, the driver claimed that the 20-year-old pulled out too quickly onto the roadway and that she was unable to swerve or stop in time to prevent the deadly collision.

Although convenient to use, electric scooters are a safety hazard to both riders, drivers, and pedestrians. Over the past several months, city officials have enforced multiple restrictions and regulations on the infamous e-scooters that have now occupied roadways in Atlanta since the beginning of 2018.

The Dangerous Scooter Frenzy

Scooters are convenient, easy-to-use, and affordable. They start at $1 to turn on and cost an additional $0.15 per minute with the average customer riding for about 10 minutes. Scooters easily get riders from Point A to Point B. While they are faster than riding bicycles, in some cases, and allow you to zoom down roads and pathways at 15-25 mph to avoid traffic, they’ve also caused thousands of accidents and injuries in the short amount of time they’ve been around.

In March of this year, the Atlanta City Council asked hospitals to voluntarily track the number of scooter-related injuries they treat. Grady Memorial alone said they get about 80-100 scooter injuries a month. Injuries range from cuts and scratches to serious head traumas and broken bones. Nationwide, there’s no official way to tally the number of scooter-related injuries, primarily because hospitals code patients based on injuries, rather than how they came about it. And even though scooter companies try to regulate safety measures, requiring riders to be 18 years or older, have a valid driver’s license, and wear helmets, these measures are difficult to enforce. Furthermore, if a scooter is damaged, it’s tough to find it’s faults and recall the broken device in time before someone else unlocks and operates it.

Having a variety of mobility options is critical to any city, but safety must be our top priority.

– Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms

E-Scooter Outbreak

Sometime in March of 2018, scooters first surged the streets of San Francisco, California where the well-known startups Bird, Lime, and Spin began manufacturing dockless, rent-by-the-minute, electric scooters. The three companies began pushing out thousands of e-scooters throughout the city’s downtown streets in just a few short weeks. And within months, scooters began popping up in various cities across the United States and Europe.

Scooters first made their way into Atlanta two months after their release on the West Coast. First came Bird, then Lime (the two most popular brands); a few months later, Bolt, Uber, Lyft, and Spin began dropping their products off at the BeltLine and other major Atlanta intersections. It didn’t take very long before scooters were scattered and piled up on busy street corners downtown and injuries started becoming all too common. It was only this past January when the city began to enforce regulations on scooter permits. According to the Atlanta Office of Transportation, the city permitted eight transportation vehicles to drop a maximum of 12,700 scooters throughout the Atlanta area, even though riders only use an average of 5,500 scooters a day. However, there are still thousands of unregistered scooters that lay around on street corners and sidewalks, some damaged.

A pile of scooters left on the sidewalk

The New Nighttime Scooter Ban

Atlanta first banned scooters from sidewalks after several reported pedestrian injuries, but far greater dangers exist on roadways with bustling Atlanta traffic. In the case of Eric Amis Jr., he was only obeying the law that restricted scooter use on sidewalks as of March this year. Banning scooters from sidewalks, however, did not prevent injuries or even the four fatalities that followed months later.

On Friday, August 9th, the mayor of Atlanta made it illegal to operate an e-scooter between 9:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. After Atlanta’s fourth reported scooter fatality, scooter riders will now be penalized for utilizing the machines overnight in addition to riding on sidewalks. Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, stated that the new regulation was necessary because there is a “pattern in the recent and tragic fatalities involving scooters –they all occurred after sunset. Having a variety of mobility options is critical to any city, but safety must be our top priority.” The mayor requested scooter companies to disable their devices in the Atlanta area during the “No Ride Zone” hours. Furthermore, she has asked the companies to enforce a text message notification for those riders who try to unlock a scooter during the overnight hours.

Atlanta is not the only city to enforce these new penalties. Chicago included a nighttime ban between 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. Unlike Nashville that just announced that it was banning scooters entirely after a man was killed while riding intoxicated, other cities like Atlanta are trying to enforce safety measures first without completely banning public transportation scooter use.

Enforcing Scooter Safety

From limiting the number of registered scooters in the city, to banning them from sidewalks and restricting use overnight, the city of Atlanta is enforcing many measures to keep its residents safe. It will be interesting to see if the new night time ban will actually decrease the amount of scooter-related injuries. As more legislation continues to pass to address the risk of electric scooters, lawsuits, likewise, continue to rise. If you or someone you know has been severely injured or died as a result of a scooter-related accident and would like to consult an attorney about a potential case, please contact Butler Law Firm for a free consultation.