When it comes to travelling by e-scooter, there are very few downsides. It’s extremely cheap, convenient, good for the environment, and far easier to get around urban areas than by bus or car. However, there is one downside: An increased risk of injury.
As with any vehicle you sit on instead of in, fewer built-in measures will protect you in a collision, and fewer road users will notice and pay attention to your vehicle. Electric scooter riders are unfortunately at a higher risk of a roadside accident, but how dangerous this form of transport comes largely down to how you ride. Riding defensively and with proper care and attention can significantly reduce the danger you put yourself in as a scooter rider.
How Safe or Unsafe are Electric Scooters?
While electric scooters are certainly a convenient and cost-effective form of transport, there’s no arguing that they are more dangerous than travelling by car. According to a recent study in the US, there was an accident rate of 14.3 per 100,000 trips — which may not sound like a lot but is sixteen times more than the equivalent rate for car travel.
Unlike a car, an electric scooter offers no built-in protection to protect you in the event of an accident. No metal casing to crumple around you and absorb the impact, no airbags, and no seat belt exist on an electric scooter. However, it’s more than likely that most of these accidents are due to either the rider or other road users not paying proper attention. If you take due care and attention to electric scooter safety, the risk of serious injury is still very low.
What Kind of Electric Scooters are Safest?
Electric scooters with larger wheel-bases and good suspension are likely to be safer due to their ability to handle uneven terrain better, reducing your risk of falling off. Scooters with a lower max speed will also be less prone to accidents. You should also make sure to purchase a scooter that’s appropriate for your size and weight. Here are the best electric scooters for heavy adults.
Higher-end scooters will also be a safer choice because they’re usually fitted with extra safety features. We’d recommend opting for a scooter with bright LED headlights and brake lights, reflectors, and reliable braking. Also, be sure to make sure the scooter you pick has a strong tread to increase traction. If you’re looking for a good commuter scooter, check out our article on the best electric scooters for commuting.
Are Scooters Safer or Less Safe than Bikes?
This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on various factors, including how you ride, where you ride, and which specific model of bike or scooter you’re riding. However, there are a few safety considerations we should talk about.
Electric bikes can be considered safer in some ways because they usually have a wider wheel-base and better suspension that makes them more resilient when it comes to uneven surfaces and unexpected road debris. However, electric scooters also typically have fewer moving parts than an electric bike. This means there’s a smaller chance of an accident due to improper maintenance or faulty design.
You can learn more about the differences between electric scooters and electric bikes here. Ultimately, the safety of your travel comes more down to your attitude to safety than which vehicle you choose. Follow the advice in this article, and we’re confident it will substantially reduce your risk of accident when riding an electric scooter.
Electric Scooter Safety Tips
Read the manual
So your brand new e-scooter has just arrived, and you’re excited to take it out for a spin. It may be tempting to throw that manual aside and jump straight on the road, but you are likely to be missing out on some very important information that could keep you safe.
The easiest way to get into an accident is not fully understanding the machine you’re working with. Those who read the manual are in tune with how to ride an electric scooter safely and are the least likely to get into an accident, so do yourself a favour and don’t skip it.
Wear electric scooter safety gear
Sometimes scooter accidents happen, so it’s always wise to wear the appropriate safety gear to protect you if something goes wrong. The extent of your safety gear will depend on your attitude to risk, but we’d recommend a sturdy helmet for scooter travel to keep your head safe as the bare minimum.
While there are still fairly limited statistics on the role of helmets in preventing major electric scooter injuries, studies do show that a helmet can reduce the chance of serious head or face injury amongst cyclists by as much as 70%, and things are likely to be very similar with scooter use too.
If there’s one part of your body you should protect at all costs, it’s your head. After all, you can’t live without it. Make sure to invest in one of the best electric scooter helmets you can afford. Some helmets for e-scootering even come with LED lights built in to improve visibility.
Knee and elbow pads
If you do come off of your scooter, your knees and elbows will probably take a lot of the damage. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in a set of knee and elbow pads for added protection.
Similarly, your hands will often take the brunt of the fall in the event of a collision. A pair of protective riding gloves can help protect your knuckles and palms against painful ‘road rash.’
While offering your friends a lift home might be tempting, it’s important to remember that most e-scooters are only built to support one person. Not only that, but as scooters are steered primarily with the leaning of your body, having a passenger who isn’t in-tune with your intentions or how an e-scooter works can throw you off balance and quite easily cause an accident.
Be familiar with your route
The more familiar you are with your route, the less distracted you will be regarding potential hazards. If you’re spending a lot of time reading road signs and making last-minute manoeuvres, you’re less likely to notice when something is about to go wrong, and it’s harder to give other road users ample notice of your intentions.
If you’re travelling somewhere new, be sure to memorize the route as best you can before you leave, considering how your choice of vehicle might affect the route you have to take.
Never attach your scooter to other moving vehicles
Tailgating is not safe on any vehicle, much less something with a high centre of gravity as a scooter. Do not attempt to ‘hitch a ride’ with a larger vehicle by attaching your scooter to it. We can guarantee it’s far less effective than you might think and will only end in injury (or potentially much worse).
Maintain your electric scooter, especially tires and brakes
Like any vehicle, proper maintenance of your scooter is the key to staying safe on the road. Flat or overinflated tires or faulty brakes can introduce very dangerous surprises to your trip, so don’t neglect them. Investing in a high-quality electric scooter will likely result in easier – and ultimately safer maintenance.
We recommend doing a quick ‘health check’ of your scooter before any trip to ensure it’s fit for travel. This will include checking the tire pressure and making sure there’s plenty of tread for optimal traction (you can check your recommended tire pressure in the product manual of your scooter), and checking that the brakes are working properly. Another thing to consider is lights, especially when riding at night, as when these stop working, you’ll be putting yourself in a lot more danger. Please don’t risk it.
Don’t go beyond your speed comfort level
We get it. Going fast can be a lot of fun, but you should never go faster than you feel safe on your scooter. If the ride begins to get wobbly or unstable, it’s only a matter of time before you fall off. Riding fast also makes it harder to spot potential danger in plenty of time to keep yourself safe.
Try to avoid going over curbs or performing other stunts
Due to the small wheels of most scooters, they’re not particularly well-designed for sudden bumps or ledges. We’d recommend avoiding trying to ride your scooter up a curb or make other movements that the vehicle hasn’t been designed for.
Make sure headlights and brake lights are working, and use reflectors.
Scooters are quite small vehicles when compared to other vehicles on the road. Unfortunately, other road-users aren’t always super-observant to scooter-users, so having a working set of headlights and brake lights might just save you from being hit by someone who isn’t paying attention.
Reflectors can also be useful in increasing your visibility at night-time, especially if your scooter doesn’t already have lights built-in. In any case, the more visible you are to other road users, the less likely you are to have an electric scooter accident.
Watch out for potholes, grates, shattered glass, and rocks.
By design, electric scooters generally have smaller wheels than bikes, cars, and other vehicles. This means that they’re far more susceptible to road debris such as rocks and litter, as well as potholes and uneven surfaces. To the best of your ability, you should always try and pay attention to the upcoming road surface (as well as other road users and your surroundings) to reduce the risk of an accident.
Stay off of sidewalks and busy roads without a separated bike lane as much as possible.
One of the benefits of e-scooters is that they can be ridden on the road or in pedestrianized areas (depending on local laws and regulations). However, pedestrians rarely expect to see a scooter ride past them when on a sidewalk or path and may end up walking out in front of your path without looking. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid pedestrianized walkways wherever possible, and if you do have to use them, ride at a slow speed to reduce the risk of accidents.
Adversely, busy roads can also be a dangerous place for e-scooter riders. We’d recommend steering well clear of roads with fast-moving traffic and sticking to quieter roads wherever possible.
We wish this didn’t have to be a point in this list, but unfortunately, there are a lot of road users out there who don’t pay enough attention. You might think that driving responsibly is enough to keep you safe on the road, but not being to blame is not going to make it hurt any less when you get hit by a careless driver. The best approach is to ride as if everyone else is trying to kill you. Better safe than sorry.
Keep your hands on the handlebars.
This one probably goes without saying, but there’s always one maverick who thinks they know how to ride an e-scooter with no hands, and they almost always get burnt for it. Scooters are not designed like bikes – which are easier (though still relatively unsafe) to ride with your hands off of the handlebar. Due to their low centre-of-gravity, the best-case scenario is that you fall off and scratch up your brand new scooter. The worst-case scenario is a lot worse.
Don’t play headphones too loud so you can still hear what’s happening around you.
Being aware of your surroundings is crucial for any road user. However, when riding a scooter, you’re far more vulnerable. For this reason, it’s always advisable to keep headphone volume to a minimum, or better yet, don’t listen to any music at all. The best distraction is no distraction.
Use your horn or bell when passing people from behind. Be ready to swerve away.
If you do have to ride your scooter on a pedestrianized walkway, be sure to alert people of your presence using a horn, bell, or buzzer, which will usually be fitted as part of your E-scooters factory design. This is not only a courtesy to the people around you but will also save you time from having to wait behind slow walkers who can’t hear you behind them. You should always be prepared to make last-minute manoeuvres if the people around you are not expecting you to pass.