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Scooter Safety: Is it Merely Child's Play?

If you have a child who plans to push or motor off to school on a scooter this fall, beware! Scooter injuries are still rising dramatically. The Early Show's Dr. Emily Senay reports for Monday's HealthWatch.

Last year, more than 40,000 injuries were reported from the use of nonmotorized push scooters for the whole year. This year so far, there have been more than 68,000 injuries. That's almost 30,000 more than last year, and the summer's not even over yet. The number of deaths also increased to 13 nationwide, compared to five last year.

Statistics show that most of the injuries happen to kids under the age of 15 and that the younger the child, the more severe the injury.

What kind of injuries are the most common?

By far the most common injuries are broken bones and joint dislocations in the upper extremities, but there are also a lot of lacerations, contusions, abrasions, strains, and sprains.

How can kids avoid these injuries?

Protective gear is the most important way of preventing injury, and an estimated 60% of injuries could be avoided by using equipment like a helmet and elbow and kneepads. But you should not ride at night, and you should avoid traffic because some of the most severe injuries involve result from collision with cars. Avoid gravel or uneven pavement that can make the scooter unstable, and wear sturdy shoes for better protection and control.

One of the inherent problems with scooters is their fundamental design. It’s easy to put your weight forward, which can make it harder to control if you take a turn too sharply. And although many injuries to the wrist occur when people fall over, wrist guards are not recommended because they make it more difficult to grip the handlebars. Gloves may offer better grip and protection to the hands.

How old should a child be before riding a scooter?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that children under 8 years old should only be riding scooters under close adult supervision. Children under 12 shouldn’t ride motorized scooters, which can reach much higher speeds and require brake and accelerator coordination.

Are motorized scooters legal?

It varies from place to place and you should check with your local authorities to find out what the regulations are in your neighborhood. But many places do not allow them in the street or public areas.

How can parents tell if their children are ready to ride a scooter?

One good indicator is how well they ride a bike. Since the skills are similar, if your child is confident on a bike, they probably have the skills for a scooter, too. If they are a little shaky, they probably aren’t ready yet.

To summarize, The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following safety guidelines:

  • Wear a bicycle helmet that meets CPSC's standard, along with knee and elbow pads.
  • Wear sturdy soes.
  • Owners of motorized scooters should check with local authorities for riding guidelines and restrictions.
  • Do not ride at night.
  • Children under 12 should not ride motorized scooters at all.

For more safety tips, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission official Web site.
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