Hoverboards, the Segway-like recreational devices, were the must-have item on many children’s holiday wish lists in 2015. However, more and more stories have popped up regarding the serious hazards some models pose. Jurisdictions have even gone as far as banning the use of the devices in public areas. But are hoverboards really so dangerous?
How Hoverboards Work
The term “hoverboard” is actually a misnomer. The boards don’t float above the ground. Instead, the device features two wheels on either side of a platform on which riders balance. The device is battery-powered and can reach speeds upwards of 10 mph. Riders shift body weight on the board to change the speed and directionality of the independent wheels. Adept riders can move forward, backwards, stop, or change direction while riding.
The Hazards Associated with Hoverboards
Several video compilations on social media sites such as Vine and YouTube featuring hoverboards show exactly why these devices present such a danger to riders. Many users step on the device, balance for a few moments, and are quickly hurled to the ground. Depending on the direction of the fall, a rider may or may not have the ability to catch him or herself on the way down. Small obstructions in the path of the device can also cause imbalances or lead to falls.
A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study confirms that falls and collisions are the cause of many hoverboard-related emergency room visits. As of late December, as many as 70 emergency room visits were associated with use of hoverboards.
Accidents using the products aren’t the only concerns consumers must consider. Many hoverboards have also been cited as fire hazards. These seemingly innocuous devices have caught on fire rolling down the street and even destroyed some peoples’ homes. Some of the fires were started because of lithium-ion battery malfunctions, but researchers haven’t linked one specific component to all of the cases.
Unfortunately, a consumer can’t avoid the fire hazard by staying away from certain brands. Many hoverboard companies source individual components from the same range of factories overseas, and fire safety experts caution that safety labels may not protect purchasers from experiencing an explosion.
Purchasing and Using Hoverboards
Consumer Reports tested many hoverboards and created a list of recommendations for individuals interested in purchasing or riding one of the devices:
- Be wary of marketing gimmicks. Price may not always indicate safety, and many of these products are manufactured by companies that aren’t well-known. Hoverboard quality is not currently regulated.
- Never charge the batteries overnight or when you’re away from the area. Only charge the devices when you can monitor the recharging process. You may want to consider storing the device in a protected area, too.
- Use a spotter. Ask someone to help you balance when you learn how to use the board to prevent dangerous falls. Even famous athletes and people with incredible balance have fallen in hoverboard incidents.
- Always wear a helmet and ride in safe spaces. Falls on hoverboards happen quickly, often giving riders no time to react. Never ride near traffic, and always wear appropriate safety gear. A few individuals have been seriously injured in collisions with vehicles, and at least one person has died in a hoverboard-related traffic incident.
Despite safety concerns, hoverboards are likely to remain a popular product on the market. If you do want to try one out, use caution and take all safety concerns seriously. Contact the distributor or manufacturer directly if you have any more questions. For those injured in hoverboard accidents, consider speaking with a West Virginia products liability lawyer. The team at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC can help you determine if a product liability claim is an appropriate response. Call our office at (304) 720-6700 or contact us online today for a free consultation.