One of the hottest 2015 holiday gifts, “hoverboards” may look fun, but they also pose serious risks—and not just from falling. Also known as a smart board or balance board, these electric skateboards can catch fire or explode, prompting online retailers to pull some brands of self-balancing scooters.
How does a hoverboard work?
Although the term “hoverboard” evokes images of a floating skateboard or surf board-like device, current devices on the market actually roll on two wheels. In reality, a more accurate description of a hoverboard would be “a self-balancing scooter.”
Self-balancing scooters have several unique components that allow them to maintain their pitch and balance, including a gyroscope, microprocessors and independent motors that balance the board. Powering these components is a lithium ion battery, which is prone to catching fire or exploding, even when used as intended.
Hoverboard fall hazards
Like any ride-on toy with wheels, hoverboards present an inherent risk of falling. Nevertheless, since riders expect the board to balance itself, it is possible that more severe injuries will occur because the microprocessors, gyroscopes and motors can malfunction. If the board fails to stabilize itself, jerks unexpectedly or malfunctions, serious injuries may occur. According to the CPSC, ERs across the country have reported life-altering injuries including traumatic brain injuries, organ damage, concussions and bone fractures.
Hoverboard fire risks
Regrettably, falls may not be the cause of the most serious injuries associated with self-balancing scooters. According to the CPSC, there have been at least 16 reports of hoverboard fires in 12 states since the devices hit the market.
Fortunately, the harm caused by hoverboard malfunctions and fires have been limited largely to property thus far. However, the multiple house fires that have occurred while these devices were charging resulted in significant and serious losses. If there is a design flaw or manufacturing defect in these devices, the number of serious injuries and even fatalities will likely increase.
Despite the reports of personal injuries and fires, no manufacturer has issued a hoverboard recall. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recognizes that hoverboards have caught fire during charging and use and is actively investigating the cause. On December 16, U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye issued a statement regarding the risks. Chairman Kaye stated that he has directed the CPSC to “work non-stop” until the cause of the hoverboard fires is determined. Kaye also stated, “While the fire hazard has generated significant attention, I do not want to downplay the fall hazard.” He also expressed concern that “there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards.”
Hoverboard Safety Tips
For the thousands of families with hoverboards, the CPSC offers the following safety tips to help reduce the risk of an incident:
- 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
- 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 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.
- 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
- Wear safety gear when using a hoverboard, including a skateboard helmet, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards
Please report incidents to CPSC via www.SaferProducts.gov.
If you or a loved one has suffered a life-changing injury due to a hoverboard malfunction that caused a serious fall or you are the victim of an explosion or fire due to a hoverboard’s lithium ion battery, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your claim.