The Hazards of Hoverboards
Maybe the future isn’t quite as spectacular as we hoped. When hoverboards, a futuristic-looking scooter, were sold to the public in 2015, they were met with an incredible amount of excitement and promise. Previously only imagined in science fiction films, the invention showed that we were getting closer to achieving the shiny, gadget-driven reality of our favorite science-fiction stories. But hoverboards haven’t been without controversy. They have faced recalls and even total bans. Even worse than a recall, the first hoverboard fatality occurred this weekend. These incidents leave questions about if the coolness factor is worth the risk.
What Exactly is a Hoverboard?
Hoverboards are formally called self-balancing scooters, but no one can deny that “hoverboard” is just way cooler. The term dates back to 1967, but we have the Back to the Future series to thank for its place in pop culture. Unfortunately, though, they don’t fly like they did in Back to the Future — at least, not yet.
A hoverboard consists of two wheels with a platform between the wheels to stand on. The rider controls their movements with their feet, using sensored pads. It’s similar to riding a skateboard or scooter, though the rider’s feet never have to touch the ground. Hoverboard use is primarily seen among young people, particularly high school and college-aged students. Plenty of adults, though, admit they couldn’t resist the urge to try it out. For people of all ages, hoverboards present a unique, speedy, and easily portable transportation device.
Not everyone sees the allure. Many college campuses, including the University of Central Florida, have banned hoverboards from campus. New York City, citing the high levels of foot traffic, has banned them entirely. The state of California has implemented heavy restrictions on their usage. All United States airlines prohibit hoverboards on their planes.
Considering the hazards, the push-back against hoverboards doesn’t seem that controversial. Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which became infamous after its recall last year, hoverboards have a high chance of exploding during use or charging. Like most phones and laptops, hoverboards rely on lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are particularly volatile, because the layer of plastic that separates the negative and positive side of the battery is very thin and can easily tear or rupture. When this happens, the liquid electrolyte in the batteries can explode. This is most likely to occur during charging, when overheating increases the chances of a battery explosion.
Recalls and Injuries
Due to their explosive nature, hoverboards have become the victim of various recalls. Over 500,000 hoverboards were recalled from ten companies in 2016. All the recalls cited smoking, sparking, and explosion risk are a reason for the recall.
Though they likely contributed to some close calls, along with plenty of scrapes and bruises, hoverboards were not directly responsible for any deaths until this past weekend. The death occurred in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when a charging hoverboard began to sizzle and spark, eventually creating a large house fire. A three year-old girl was killed in the fire. While many hoverboard owners have probably pushed away the idea of dangers, this fire makes it impossible to deny that hoverboards pose a very serious risk.
In the future, maybe we’ll see hoverboards that actually fly. But for now, we should work on improving the hoverboards we have. This includes spreading awareness that even though they look super cool, hoverboards need to be used with caution.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.