They were making headlines in 2015 as one of the most popular Christmas gifts, but now hoverboards are in the news for a different reason: accidents and fires.
These two-wheeled motorized devices are touted as a fun way to get around, with the ability to move fluidly in any direction. But they can easily fly out from underneath a user, as seen in boxer Mike Tyson’s YouTube video of his hoverboard mishap.
Falling backwards is associated with tailbone, wrist, and head injuries. A Texas man was hospitalized in intensive care after falling backwards off a hoverboard and fracturing his skull. A neurosurgeon at The Neuromedical Center in Baton Rouge, LA, treated two children and one adult for serious hoverboard-related head injuries in one weekend. And the former mayor of Coral Springs, FL, shattered his wrist in a fall from a hoverboard.
The other risk associated with hoverboards may be an even greater concern, because it can affect more than just the riders.
Fire Risk From Hoverboard Accidents
From Dec. 1, 2015 through Feb. 17, 2016, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received reports of 52 hoverboards in 24 states catching fire, causing more than $2 million in property damage and destroying two homes and a car.
These devices have been catching on fire while in use and while charging – one hoverboard even exploded in a shopping mall, for no apparent reason.
A faulty lithium ion battery seems to be the likely cause of hoverboard fires, so some retailers are checking to make sure the hoverboards they sell have safety-certified batteries and chargers. However, there are no federal guidelines that govern what standards the hoverboard itself must meet – the technology is new, and unregulated.
Some companies and organizations have apparently decided that banning or restricting hoverboards is the easiest way to minimize fire risk. Several airlines have banned them, the U.S. Postal Service will not ship them by air, and at least 20 college campuses have banned or restricted their use.
California passed a law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, banning the use of hoverboards for riders under age 16, but so far, no other state laws have addressed the use of hoverboards.
Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, issued a statement on Jan. 20, 2016, about the agency’s investigation of hoverboards. In it, he said, “all options remain on the table,” regarding actions that may stem from the investigation.
The CPSC is looking into fire causes, as well as fall hazards. Kaye said that falling is not necessarily the result of inexperience or error, and it may not be a hazard obvious to users:
“However, I am concerned, for example, that the current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate, especially a first-time user. We are looking deeper into the design of these products to see if they present a hidden hazard that is leading to fall injuries that should not occur, even on a product that presents some risk of falling.”
Hoverboards, for now, remain on the market, although some retailers have pulled them from shelves. Consumers may want to think carefully about whether the enjoyment of using these products is worth the potential consequences.
If you have questions about how hoverboard design might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of our attorneys. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help you.