In the 1980s (and 1950s, and 1880s), Marty McFly encountered many far-fetched visions of the future in the Back to the Future trilogy. One particular fantasy item was none other than the hoverboard, and the films gave the futuristic, floating skateboard instant cult status. For decades, kids wondered what it would be like to ride one of these wonders, and finally, the dream became a reality. For many children, however, that dream quickly became a nightmare. Over the 2015 holiday season and early into 2016, dozens of children and parents were injured by the products. The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received at least 50 reports of fires and injuries associated with hoverboards since December 2015, including lacerations and broken bones. In South Florida alone, hoverboards caused at least 40 injuries requiring hospitalization.
What Is a Hoverboard and Why Are They So Dangerous?
Hoverboards, also known as electric or self-balancing scooters, are essentially a Segway without handles. Unlike McFly’s floating version, these are powered by wheels and require users to balance on the board. Rather than facing sideways, like on a skateboard, hoverboard riders face forward, as on a Segway, and control the device with slight movements of the feet, legs, and torso. Pressure-sensitive footpads allow users to control the speed.
Why Are They So Dangerous?
Two major factors contribute to the injuries sustained by hoverboards. First, the lack of handles or any balancing mechanisms contribute to falls, resulting in broken bones and other traumas. The boards can reach speeds of 12 miles per hour, and the faster a user can go, the higher the risk of injury in the event of a fall. Second, and more concerning, is the boards’ propensity to burst into flames. While the exact cause of fires has not been determined, it appears that the quality of the lithium ion batteries used in the devices, particularly when connected to electrical plugs, plays a role. Although some hoverboards have exploded while connected to the charger, others have caught fire while disconnected, making it difficult to ascertain one absolute cause.
What About Safety Standards?
Initially, the devices came with safety guidelines, but the fire hazard was an unexpected development. Since reports of injuries, many retailers have refused to sell the boards due to safety concerns, and the CPSC has launched investigations into dozens of hoverboard-related fires. Cities like New York, entire countries such as the U.K. and Australia, and even college campuses have banned the devices due to the risk of fires and pedestrian safety. All major U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, and United, have banned hoverboards on airplanes because of the associated fire hazards. The CPSC announced in February that it will seize or recall all hoverboards that do not meet safety standards as set out by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. As of February 2016, no model of hoverboard has met the safety standard.
For those that choose to use a hoverboard despite the risks, the National Association of State Fire Marshals has recommended wearing safety gear, avoiding using a cell phone while operating a board, and calling the manufacturer if the device is hot, as this could be a sign of a faulty battery.
Have You or Your Child Been Injured by a Product?
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries after using an unsafe product, contact the experienced Ocala lawyer, John Piccin, at Piccin & Glynn for help. John has sued numerous major manufacturers regarding defective products for decades. Call John at 352-558-8480 for a free case evaluation today.