Electric scooter accidents spark safety debates among students

According to DPS logs, five electric scooter-related accidents occurred in the month of September alone.

Scooters gather near the edge of the village.

Ty Kawamura was riding an electric scooter on Sept. 17 when he was struck by an SUV on 28th Street, USC’s fraternity row. DPS reported the sophomore economics major sustained injuries and was sent to the hospital.

Members of the Kappa Alpha Fraternity, where Kawamura serves as a treasurer, set up a GoFundMe the next week to crowdfund their friend’s medical expenses. They said Kawamura was recovering from skull fractures among other “very serious injuries.”

“As a fraternity, our chapter wants to help Ty’s family deal with the financial burden of this tragedy so his parents can focus on providing unconditional love for their child and not having to worry about mounting bills,” GoFundMe organizer Brandon Blau stated on the page.

Their $25,000 goal was exceeded within three days.

Trish Bazari, former president of Kappa Alpha, said his friend is doing okay but that Kawamura’s path to recovery is going to be a “long road.”

This crash was not a lone incident. DPS logs show that five electric scooter-related accidents have occurred in the month of September. All five involved a motor vehicle, and four resulted in injuries to the rider.

“Electric scooters have become very popular, not just at USC, but around Southern California, and we see more and more of them ridden by students,” said DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle. “Our concern is that students may not be riding them safely, which could lead to injuries.”

USC Safety’s scooter safety advisory webpage encourages students to walk their scooters through intersections and busy areas on campus, to have a light on at night and to wear helmets at all times.

Universities across the country have implemented their own electric scooter policies in light of the dangers.

In Wisconsin, Marquette University banned motorized scooters on campus in 2019 out of safety concerns for students. San Diego State University lifted their ban this August, but continues to impose multiple “no ride zones.”

Internationally, according to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 53 people have died in e-scooter accidents around the world from March 2016 to March 2021.

While USC’s current regulations for electric scooters align with California vehicle laws, the statistical dangers that scooters pose to students beg for stricter oversight.

Melissa Ibahim, a graduate student studying social work, believes USC should implement more safety precautions for scooter riders. “Having designated scooter lanes might be really helpful. And just making drivers more aware, this is a highly populated area, be careful,” she said.

Bazari said he’d like to see speed bumps on The Row or even scooters being banned altogether. He said he is no longer comfortable riding the scooters himself, and thinks his friends feel similarly.

“We’ve seen that one day, one minute, can change someone’s life. A bright kid going to USC doing well in school...and it’s just not worth it,” Bazari said. “You can invest your five minutes by walking somewhere instead of using the scooter.”