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Are electric skateboards safe for your kids?

standing on a skateboard
Photo by FitNish Media on Unsplash

An electric skateboard, or e-skateboard, is built with motorized wheels powered by a rechargeable battery and operated by wireless remote control. They’ve been around for decades and have exploded in popularity over the past few years. All-terrain skateboards are the latest development, with large tires and higher ground clearance to travel off-road. They are fun, fast, and kids want them. But parents want to make sure their children are safe. So, is it wise to give your child the new board they’ve been longing for? Read on to learn more about the safety of e-skateboarding.

What makes e-skateboards so popular?

The rise in e-skate popularity has come about as the technology has improved. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries squeeze large amounts of energy into relatively small packages for more power and longer run times. Powerful and efficient electric motors operate either directly inside the wheel assembly or mounted next to the axle with a belt to drive the wheel. Speed and battery management are controlled electronically. The rider operates the board with a handheld wireless remote control. 

A variety of preassembled boards and kits make for a fully customizable experience, with freewheeling hub motors for optional motor/push or do-it-yourself (DIY) kits that let the builder choose their platform and motorize it. One fun development in customized e-skateboarding is the all-terrain skateboard. You can convert a regular e-board to an electric off-road skateboard in about 10 minutes by changing out the trucks and wheels. Off-road boards average top-end speeds up to 31 mph. 

E-skateboards are designed for travel, not tricks. They are typically built like a longboard and weigh about 15 pounds. With the power to climb hills and keep up with traffic, they are popular with urban commuters who like the ability to travel at speeds comparable to biking without breaking a sweat. On pavement, they attain travel speeds from 18 mph to 28 mph, with some reaching 40 mph or more. 

With a fully-charged battery pack, an electric skateboard has a range of 12 to 20 miles. They are portable and easy to store. These boards are fairly easy for beginners to ride because there is no pushing, and a built-in braking system allows the rider to focus on balance. Although age restrictions may apply to riders on public properties like parks, roads, and sidewalks, virtually anyone can operate one.

man skateboarding on a snowy rural road
Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

E-skateboards can be dangerous

The combination of speed and pavement inherently comes with a certain level of risk. Many of these boards are capable of quick acceleration and very fast speeds, giving the motorized skating experience a much different feel than traditional skateboarding. They can be lots of fun, but inexperience and unsafe operation can lead to serious injury. E-boarders should always wear protective gear (most importantly, a good helmet) and start slowly. Learn, practice, and master your skills in a safe area before attempting to skate near pedestrians or road traffic. 

When accidents happen, it’s typically due to operator error, operator judgment, or occasional equipment problems. Unskilled riders may lose control and fall as they ride beyond their skill level. Some riders operate on surfaces that are unsafe for regular e-skateboards, like cracked pavement, rails, or curbstones. Excessive speed is a common factor. Often, there are collisions with other skaters, pedestrians, bikes, or cars. Wet pavement or loose material on the pavement may cause the operator to lose control. Occasionally, the electronics are at fault, as when the Bluetooth connection between the controller and board is broken or if regenerative braking stops working.

Consider the risks

The risks associated with e-skating are similar to those of traditional skating or cycling. They include cuts and bruises; injuries to hands, wrists, and shoulders; head injuries; and knee and ankle injuries. Most injuries are minor, but some require trips to the emergency room. In the worst cases, riders experience permanent injury or die of their injuries. These extreme accidents nearly always occur when skaters wreck on pavement at a high speed without a helmet.

Rarely, the battery pack catches fire. Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries can catch fire and explode if not handled correctly. This normally happens with damaged or overcharged batteries. Current lithium-ion battery packs are required to have overcharge protection to prevent this. Some chargers also have overcharge protection.  

electric skateboard closeup on pavement
Photo by Liam Martens on Unsplash

You can prevent most accidents and injuries

If you’re thinking about going for it, start your young e-boarder with a small, lightweight model. Choose one with lower power to limit the top-end speed. By taking a few additional precautions, you can prevent the worst accidents and injuries, along with many of the minor ones.

  • Boarders should always wear proper safety gear.
  • Young boarders should always operate e-skateboards under adult supervision.
  • Practice in a pedestrian and traffic-free location before exploring more challenging terrain. 
  • Follow the board manufacturer’s guidelines for operation, care, and maintenance.

E-boarding can be a great way to get active and get outside; choose the board wisely, always wear proper safety gear, and have fun!

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