Hoverboard Safety for Kids
Though not yet mainstream, hoverboards are fast becoming one of the most popular modes of personal transportation. Resembling motorized skateboards or scooters, hoverboards are futuristic two-wheeled, hands-free, contraptions that enable the rider to glide through city streets and travel on suburban roadways and sidewalks effortlessly, moving up to 10 miles per hour. Recently, they have become popular among American icons and celebrities alike, from professional athletes like J. R. Smith of the Cavs, to celebrated musicians like Wiz Khalifa and Justin Bieber. However, despite all the hype, hoverboards are being linked to a number of serious injuries among both child and adult riders, including broken bones, bruises, and even concussions, and cities like New York are banning them. If you are a parent or loved one thinking of buying a boy or girl a hoverboard this holiday season, here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Basically, a hoverboard is a self-balanced motorized scooter with two wheels on the side and no handles. The rider must stand up straight and then gently lean forward to propel the hoverboard into motion. It sounds simple, but this leaning stance is actually tricky to execute and is part of the reason for the falling risk. In addition to the leaning forward posture that must be used to move the hoverboard, these devices require a leaning back pressure to go in reverse and left foot or right foot pressure to turn in the corresponding direction. This foot-controlled directional pressure system, if not mastered, can quickly throw a rider forward, pitching him or her into traffic or off a curb.
Hoverboards have been linked to electrical fires during normal usage. Fires have occurred suddenly while a person is riding, and the scooters have also spontaneously caught fire while being charged, whether a result of faulty wiring, plugs, or fuses, or simple overheating. According to the London Fire Brigade, there were two instances of the hoverboard starting a major house fire while charging just in October, 2015. Never leave a hoverboard unattended while charging.
Hoverboards are known to have battery issues caused by several different factors. Bad batteries have been linked to the electrical fires cited above and the use of generic batteries has also become an issue. Off-brand batteries are ill-equipped to handle the voltage required to run a hoverboard, and this can lead to fires. In fact, even well-made brand name batteries have been associated with hoverboard fires. The battery can also cause the unit to stop and start suddenly while in operation, or run out prematurely, pitching the rider forward and leading to serious injuries and often concussions.
Major City Bans
Britain is leading the world in its response to the hoverboard and is the first country to declare that riding self-balancing boards out in public is illegal, saying that they are hard to control and dangerous on hard pavement and roadways. (However, use of the hoverboard is still legal on private property.) In late 2015, New York City police started enforcing a similar ban under state traffic and vehicle law, citing street safety concerns.
Hoverboards are cool, but the jury is out as to whether they are safe for the general population, much less young children. If you are considering one as a gift, be sure to do your research first. Hoverboard prices range from $400 to upward of $1,000.