SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In Pacific Beach, it's common to see scooters in the flow of traffic.
At night, it's the same story. Firefighters plagued with trauma patients from scooter crashes. Crews say they often see people using them to bar hop.
A study released Thursday reveals data supporting exactly that. The study focuses on 103 patients and after tests it shows that half of them were drunk. Even more surprising, 52% were high on drugs.
The study pulled data from UCSD Medical Center, Scripps Mercy Medical Center, and a hospital in Austin, Texas.
"We were concerned this would become the next big public health issue," says UC San Diego Health Dr. Leslie Kobayashi.
The study looked at patients between September 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018.
"Spinal fractures and spinal chord injuries," Kobayashi says, recalling injuries. "I myself saw one patient who was not able to be salvaged because of a severe overwhelming devastating head injury."
Kobayashi seeing the skyrocketing trend from the emergency room.
New rules started in June to combat these stats, like limiting the speed of scooters in places like the boardwalk and forcing riders to park scooters in corrals.
Firefighters in Pacific Beach say they're seeing less injuries in the last month.
Kobayashi hopes it's just the beginning.
"Reducing the speeds, limiting the times of day it can be used, and whether or not protective gear, most importantly helmets are going to have an impact on injury prevention," Kobayashi added.
The conclusion of the study reads, "eScooter-related trauma has significantly increased over time. Alcohol and illicit substance use among these patients was common, and helmet use was extremely rare. Significant injuries including intracranial hemorrhage and fractures requiring operative intervention were present in over half (51%) of patients. Interventions aimed at increasing helmet use and discouraging eScooter operation while intoxicated are necessary to reduce the burden of eScooter-related trauma."
10News reached out to Bird and Lime for a response.
Lime said they are "piloting a new function in the app - “Don’t drink and ride” - whereby those trying to rent a Lime after 10pm now have to confirm they are not attempting to rider under the influence."
Both companies said safety is their priority.
Bird sent us this statement, in part, "The rules of the road, apply to everyone — whether behind the wheel, walking, cycling or on a scooter. We go to great lengths to educate and inform riders about the dangers of distracted riding, including riding under the influence, as well as educating them on how to identify drivers who might be operating cars under the influence." They provide in-app messages and emails reminding riders not to drink and ride.
The study acknowledges their information may be skewed, "Using patients only from Level 1 trauma centers may skew our data by excluding many of the less severely injured patients who were triaged to lower level trauma centers and non-trauma centers."