The following article is sourced from The West Australian here.
The number of people presenting to Royal Perth Hospital’s emergency department with serious injuries from e-scooter crashes has doubled since the City of Perth introduced its rental scheme — as an exclusive investigation revealed one-in-five riders were speeding on private devices.
The West Australian armed itself with a speed gun in Leederville and the CBD last week and found it was common for early morning commuters to break the law on shared paths, with several people travelling at almost 10km/h over the 25km/h speed limit.
Three people were clocked travelling over 30km/h — one man was caught doing 34km/h on Riverside Drive. Two others were recorded travelling at 31.2km/h on Leederville Parade.
Of 32 private e-scooters that passed the speed camera, six were speeding. All of the offenders were on private e-scooters.
It comes as fresh figures show RPH has had an average of almost two patients a day in the ED with serious injuries from e-scooter incidents between March 17 and last week — a doubling from an average of one a day in previous weeks.
Forty-two people had been treated in the ED in that period.
While the hospital’s research could not yet determine if those presenting to hospital had been in accidents involving the City of Perth’s rental e-scooters in any way, the data spike came after the City of Perth introduced the rental scheme — on March 18.
But Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said the number of incidents on hire devices was low and “if there is an increase in presentations to any of the hospitals, my suggestion would be that is not because of the scooters available for hire in the City of Perth”.
RPH head of trauma services Dieter Weber said the fact that two patients a day were needing emergency treatment was “getting up there” in comparison to the number of other trauma-causing events, such as car accidents.
“To put that into perspective, we admit about 10 to 15 trauma calls a day,” the surgeon said.
“We are talking 10 per cent of our overall work is suddenly coming from this.
“It’s a significant chunk of work that we just didn’t see before. So we’ve come from nothing, we’ve had this exponential increase — we’ve seen this new disease. Now, on top of that — we’ve just doubled it.”
Dr Weber said anecdotally, doctors continued to see patients being injured after failing to wear a helmet, or after injuring themselves while drunk — a lot of the time after midnight. “There is an increase of e-scooter presentations at the weekend, compared to weekdays, and in particularly Saturdays,” he said.
“I think we can also say there’s a grouping of patients coming through after midnight. It’s unusual for trauma patients to present at 3am, 4am, but there’s a group of e-rideables coming through at that hour.”
Dr Weber added he had a patient recently who had come off an e-scooter that he would not have got on if he had been sober. “In retrospect, it was a bad decision getting on one of those e-scooters,” he said.
The esteemed trauma surgeon said the surge in injuries was resulting in a “significant hidden cost to the community”.
“There’s a significant burden here that our society is being asked to underwrite for want of a better word — when someone makes a bad decision at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Last week, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, of which Dr Weber is a member, called for stronger regulation of commercial e-scooter operators — including the two companies used by the City of Perth, Bird Rides Australia and Neuron Mobility Australia.
“Electric scooters have become increasingly popular for short trips and leisure activities, but the lack of proper regulations has led to an alarming number of crashes,” the college said. “RACS has seen a significant rise in the number of patients admitted to hospitals across WA with severe injuries related to electric scooters.”
In a statement, the RACS pleaded “for immediate curbs on commercial operators to prevent harm to users and the general public”.
Mr Zempilas said the City of Perth’s regulation of its hire e-scooters was “the best around Australia”.
“We’ve benefited by being one of the last cities to adopt a scooter trial,” he said. “We’ve benefited from the technology that is now available that wasn’t available previously and we’ve certainly benefited from the experience of what’s happened in other capital cities.
“We haven’t had a significant number of incidents reported, and those people who have been hiring scooters have by and large done the right thing and followed the rules.”
Mr Zempilas said there also had not been any dangerous alcohol-fuelled use on the hired e-scooters.
“The grey scooters or black scooters that you might see through our city or around our metropolitan area, and sometimes with riders on them who aren’t wearing a helmet, they are not the scooters that are available for hire in the City of Perth,” he said.
“Unless it’s orange or it’s blue, then it’s private. And if people are doing the wrong thing on private scooters, then the police will catch up with them eventually. But the people who have been hiring scooters in the city have been using them responsibly, sensibly, and by and large within the rules.”
There are several rules on using rental e-scooters in the City, including “no-go zones” in the Hay and Murray Street malls, Forrest Place or off paths in parks. Using e-scooters in Northbridge is banned from 9pm to 6am on Fridays and Saturdays.
“My view is a lot of the negativity around scooters in Perth is slightly misplaced and I think directing it at the scooters that are available for hire and those people hiring them isn’t necessarily accurate because I know how strict the conditions are, the rules that are in place and the safety devices that go with it,” Mr Zempilas said. “And to suggest every scooter incident that is happening around the city is because of a hired scooter is just not right, it doesn’t match the data and the feedback that we are receiving.”
Last year, 62 people were treated for e-scooter injuries at RPH — a 60 per cent rise on the previous year, when there were 39 people were admitted to hospital.
Almost half of the males who suffered e-scooter injuries last year had reported having alcohol in the 12 hours before their crash. And only half of people needing medical treatment at RPH reported they had been wearing a helmet.
Several children have been injured on e-scooters so far over the school holidays, including a 12-year-old boy who was hit by a commuter commuter bus at the intersection of Ocean Reef and Wanneroo roads in Wangara on Wednesday.
He was seriously injured and needed treatment at Perth Children’s Hospital.
That came as a 14-year-old who was riding an e-scooter in Eglinton on Friday was hit by an off-ride motorcyclist, who was 16 years old. The younger of the two was seriously injured.
Written by Shannon Hampton and Lauren Price. 17 April 2023.