The e-scooter has become an indispensable part of traffic. But the rise of the popular electric means of transport also has a dark side: the number of accidents involving e-scooters, in which users are injured, is increasing explosively. In Antwerp there has been an increase of more than 700% in the period from 2019 to 2022. In 2019, 34 injured victims were recorded, and in 2022 the Antwerp police counted 248 e-scooter users who suffered an injury.
Fortunately, the vast majority of cases involve minor injuries, but serious injuries are also occurring more and more often. Since 2020, four deaths have been reported in Antwerp in accidents involving e-scooters.
According to Bart De Wever, these official figures give too good a picture of reality. “We know there is a big one darknumber is due to accidents that do not appear in the statistics,” says the Antwerp mayor. “This may be because there is often no other vehicle involved. E-scooter users often fall over curbs or crash on sharp turns. From a screening of the GZA hospitals, we know that 110 accidents occurred in the first three months of last year alone. We can therefore conclude that the actual number is much higher than the official figure. The figures from the GZA hospitals show that victims often sustain serious injuries to the wrists and face. Many internal injuries are also reported. The explanation for this is that users get the handlebars in their stomach area when they brake abruptly or fall.”
Private scooters go too fast
It is striking that mainly users of private e-scooters are involved in accidents. Users of electric scooters in Antwerp account for approximately 15% of the total number of victims.
“The differences between shared and private scooters are also evident from the police enforcement figures,” says the Antwerp mayor. “With shared scooters, the police mainly observe reckless driving behavior. Private e-scooters mainly concern speeding violations. For example, last year our neighborhood team confiscated an e-scooter that reached a speed of 95 kilometers per hour. And recently our ORIDA cycling team intercepted an e-scooter that could travel at 70 kilometers per hour. The driver was traveling with a child who was holding a mobile phone and could therefore only cling to the driver with one hand. A life-threatening situation.”
The e-scooters are creating more and more work for the police. The Antwerp police identified a total of 1,993 violations between July 2022 and August 2023. A quarter of the violations involve transporting a passenger on an e-scooter. Furthermore, e-scooters often appear to ignore traffic lights and drive in prohibited places such as the sidewalk.
“The federal government introduced new rules on July 1, 2022 to reduce the number of accidents and reckless driving,” said De Wever. “The main measures were the introduction of an age restriction of minimum 16 years and limiting use to one person, banning the carriage of passengers. These new rules gave the police additional tools to tighten enforcement.”
Helmet requirement and speed limit
Bart De Wever believes that additional measures are needed to get the problem of e-scooters under control. For example, he advocates the introduction of mandatory helmet use. “Our parliamentary group will take an initiative on this. In fact, compulsory helmet use seems to us to be a self-evident way to protect drivers. In addition, in terms of speed limits, a more uniform technical homologation should be considered, for example with a lower speed. That file should be discussed at European level. The rules between the different Member States differ considerably. For example, in Germany the maximum speed is 20 kilometers per hour, in our country it is 25 per hour. That’s confusing.”
De Wever also wants to implement a stricter policy on e-scooters in the election campaign. “If I even mention the word e-step during working visits, you hear the audience growling like a herd of wildebeest. I hear the same complaints about e-scooters everywhere. From Zandvliet to Hoboken, and from Deurne to Linkeroever. And the police figures show that these complaints are fully justified.”