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Germany: E-scooters less dangerous than feared

Alex Berry
March 26, 2021

During their first full year in use on German streets, e-scooters have proven to be a relatively safe alternative to crowded public transport during the coronavirus pandemic.

E-scooters parked on a sidewalk in Hamburg, Germany
Despite courting considerable attention when they were launched, E-scooters represented a very small fraction of vehicle accidents in Germany in 2020Image: Imago Images/Nikita

Accidents involving e-scooters represented less than 1% of all vehicular accidents resulting in personal injury in 2020, the German statistics agency Destatis reported on Friday.

The first full year of data gathered on e-scooter-related accidents showed that the vehicles — first authorized in Germany in May 2019 — were not as dangerous as many experts had feared.

Just 2,155 or 0.8% of the 264,000 accidents resulting in personal injury that were recorded by German police in 2020 were attributed to e-scooters. Most of those accidents involved injury only to the scooter rider themselves.

In comparison, police recorded some 91,500 bicycle accidents that caused personal injury.

While five people died from e-scooter accidents, in the same time period 426 cyclists were killed. Bikes are of course a more commonly used method of transport, however.

What were the main causes of e-scooter accidents?

The two main causes for accidents involving e-scooters were inebriation and incorrectly using cycle lanes or riding on the sidewalk.

Around 18% of accidents were caused by e-scooter users who were drunk, according to police reports.

The share of drunk drivers causing accidents with e-scooters was significantly higher than the share of drunk drivers causing accidents with cars — 7.1%.

Is e-mobility the next big thing?

E-scooters are banned from using pedestrian sidewalks and are instead confined to cycle paths where available or traveling with traffic on the roads when not.

Almost 400 accidents were reported due to e-scooter users ignoring this rule.

Stats point to younger users

The vast majority of people involved in e-scooter accidents were under 45 with a third aged 25 or younger.

As a comparison, only around half of the cyclists involved in accidents were under 45 and a quarter under 25.

Close to half of the e-scooter accidents resulting in personal injury involved only the rider and three out of the five deaths were caused by accidents in which nobody else was involved.

The majority of the remaining accidents involved a car. More than a third of injuries in e-scooter accidents came from riders crashing with cars.

The data suggest that the majority of people who use e-scooters are younger and the vehicle is perhaps seen as less dangerous than other options meaning that more people accept the risks of drinking and driving.

During the coronavirus pandemic, e-scooters have also turned out to be a relatively popular alternative to traveling on crowded public transport.