Top Local Health Official Says Those Scooters Should be 'Outlawed'

The medical director for San Antonio's fire department says the rash of accidents involving those new electric scooters has gone on long enough, and he wants major changes, or get them off the streets, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

"We should outlaw them.  That's my opinion," Dr. David Miramontes told News Radio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.

Since the scooters hit the streets of downtown, the number of accidents has been steadily increasing.  In October and November alone, there were 46 calls to EMS involving them.  Dr. Miramontes, who is also an assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio, says the vast majority of the riders involved in the wrecks had to be taken to the hospital.  Many had head injuries.

Although Dr. Miramontes is the medical director for the fire department, he does not speak for the department nor the city as a whole.  

Two months ago, the city started to regulate scooters.  One of the main recommendations was that riders must wear helmets.  Dr. Miramontes says he's never seen one rider don protective gear.

"Even city workers.  I see people come out of city hall or council chambers, get on these damned things, and scoot on along.  They don’t have helmets."

He also worries about tourists who come here and are unaware of the rules.  To combat that, he wants hotels to rent, lend or sell helmets, and make it clear about the rules.  He also want to see police crack down on riders without helmets.  

The city says cops have given warnings, but no tickets have been issued so far.

The city is in the process of a six-month Council-approved pilot program for dockless vehicles, which is their term for scooters.  A spokeswoman says it's necessary to help understand the usage and create a safe environment for users and pedestrians and one that respects the neighborhoods.

Scooter operators offer free helmets to riders, just as long as they cover the shipping costs. And while that would work for locals who ride the scooters on a regular basis, it's little help to tourists who might be here for the weekend.

The concerns about public safety are so bad, the Centers for Disease Control have launched an investigation in Austin.  For 60 days this fall, they'll be tracking incidents and injures.  

And for Dr. Miramontes, the concerns go beyond the health and well-being of humans.  He feels the scooters presents an environmental harm, too.

"They're going to end up in our Riverwalk. You know that drunk idiots will throw them in the river and that will pollute our waterways."

(Editor Note:  This story has been updated to correct that helmet use is recommended but not required)

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