Hoverboards: Fun or Safety Fail?
There’s no denying that the hoverboard – an electric, hands-free, self-balancing, two-wheel scooter – was one of the hottest, and hardest-to-get, holiday gifts in 2015. It was also the most controversial. It seemed as soon as hoverboards hit the market, social media and YouTube exploded with stories of serious injuries and battery fires.
So, what’s behind the rash of injuries and accidents? Aside from cases of improper use and pure carelessness, it seems that cost-cutting measures by lower-end manufacturers may be at fault. In his article for Forbes magazine, How To Avoid Hoverboards That Burst Into Flames, writer Toby Bradley quoted hoverboard vendor Glitek’s CEO Tony Le explaining, “The cause of these incidents boils down to manufacturers choosing cheap batteries to save a few bucks. One of the reasons those batteries are cheaper is that they leave out the control board that monitors temperature and shuts the battery down before it gets so hot it bursts into flames.”
Now that the holiday season is over, the controversy continues to linger. Amazon and Overstock.com no longer sell hoverboards on their websites, most major airlines have banned hoverboards from being transported as either checked or carry-on luggage due to the perceived risk that they might explode or catch fire, and some cities have banned the use of hoverboards on public streets
It’s not all bad news
To be fair and balanced, let’s look at the fun side of a hoverboard. It’s a unique toy that takes riders on a delicately maneuvered ride at 6-12 mph. Each wheel of the hoverboard operates independently and responds to slight changes in pressure from the rider’s weight. Press with your toes and the board moves forward. Press with your heels and it goes backward. And, if you’re using your hoverboard to commute around town, no need to lock it up, just carry it with you.
Still want a hoverboard? Just be careful!
If you’re convinced that a hoverboard is the people mover for you, follow these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). And, don’t forget, safety gear (helmet, elbow and knee pads) is a must!
- Avoid buying the product at a location (like a mall kiosk) or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and how they can be contacted if there is a problem. If you do not think you could find the seller again if a problem arose with your board, it should be a warning to you not to do business with that vendor.
- Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board.
- Charge and store in an open dry area away from combustibles (meaning items that can catch fire).
- Do not charge directly after riding. Let the device cool for an hour before charging.
- If giving a hoverboard to someone as a gift, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up. Often, the product comes partially charged. Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.
- Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory. While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.
- Do not ride near vehicular traffic.
- This tip needs to be reiterated: It is important to wear safety gear when using a hoverboard. We recommend the same safety gear that you would wear when riding a skateboard — a skateboard helmet, and knee and elbow pads and wrist guards for protection from falls.
If you or a family member have been injured or are suffering due to injuries from a faulty hoverboard, you have rights. It is important to speak with an attorney who has experience with products liability and serious injury matters about your potential lawsuit.