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Keeping Wildcats safe on electric scooters

Evan Shepherd wheels his electric scooter across UK's campus as he walks with his friends on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Natalie Parks | Kentucky Kernel Staff

In October 2022, a San Jose State University student crashed into a bus while riding an electric scooter. The victim, Spartan football team running back Camdan McWright, collided with the vehicle while speeding across an intersection. He died two months before his 19th birthday.

With the introduction of electric scooter services like Bird and Spin across U.S. universities, electric scooter-related accidents have nearly become commonplace as students utilize them on their respective campuses.

Electric scooters provide a speedy, affordable and accessible mode of transportation. However, these benefits are accompanied by risks that the University of Kentucky fails to address. Our campus holds an obligation to better inform its students of electric scooter safety protocols.

I rode one for the first time in September 2022. One crisp afternoon, I strolled outside Johnson Hall, pondering requesting an Uber. Few students paced the sidewalks. Most pupils were either cooped up in their rooms or huddled in the library. I, however, needed to drop off packages at the UPS store. My shivering frame halted before the e-scooter depot. A few seconds later, I hopped on a wheel-board, whizzed past the sidewalk and veered into the bike lane. Though I abided by predetermined guidelines, this experience enabled me to recognize the underlying causes of e-scooter accidents.

First and foremost, these machines can rapidly accelerate to dangerous speeds. One can imagine how a driver might push their accelerator, seeing no incoming pedestrians, only to slam into an e-scooter that zipped onto the street without warning. Drivers also deal with many distractions—radios, phones and even inner thoughts compete with their ability to remain focused on the road. Students' actions might inadvertently contribute to the lack of safety as well. Many ride these conveyances at night when darkness obscures their forms. Additionally, these vehicles' compact design only accommodates one occupant, however, I've seen students disregard this by riding with a passenger. Many cruise without a helmet, which safety manuals strongly urge against.

The University of Kentucky's E-Scooter Safety page fails to provide even the most basic warnings. It cautions riders not to take shortcuts through the grass but foregoes any mention of an occupancy limit. It tells riders to use hand signals but never informs them of the appropriate hand signals to use. In effect, our campus designates students with the responsibility of ensuring their own safety. The increase of e-scooter-related accidents indicates that universities must take more accountability for protecting their students and commuters.

A UCLA study finds that 115 injuries occur per one million rides. E-scooter accidents account for more injuries than car wrecks. Studies like these should provoke campus administrators to respond. Updating the E-Scooter Safety page is only the beginning. From there, the University of Kentucky should send emails with instructions on how to ride safely. These messages can provide tips, warnings and links to videos and articles with further information. One could also create posters and signs to spread the message. Actions like these might be crucial in preventing future e-scooter accidents from occurring on our campus.


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