HOVERBOARDS – Hot! Hot! Hot!
No doubt a Hoverboard was on many a Christmas list this year….and they are hot hot hot! And full of controversy, so I'm here to give you the latest.
First of all, what are they? They are self balancing sets of wheels that have become very quickly popular with kids, college students, athletes, and even politicians worldwide. They are typically powered by Lithium carbonate batteries, and depending where you are, land somewhere between between and toy and a transportation device.
As quickly as they have become popular, they’ve also become a source of concern worldwide. There are several issues that have come up- the first issue is injuries.
Because they rely on very subtle movements of the feet and good balance of the user, injuries like fractures, sprains, contusions and head injuries have spiked – witness Mike Tyson and congressman Carlo Curbelo, as well as countless others visiting the ER on Christmas night. Adults might be at greater risk with a higher center of gravity (and alcohol might impair performance as well), compared with nimble smaller kids.
Secondly, fires are a problem. Why?
The lithium batteries in these devices are directly beneath the foot plate – an area of the board that incurs the most bumps and nicks – if the delicate covering of the battery is “injured”, the liquid within it leaks, and is extremely flammable. Because there has been a huge rush to get these devices to market, many manufacturers in China have used lower quality batteries, connections and wiring that may increase the risk of fire. We’ve seen reports of this happening spontaneously, in transit, and when plugged in. Homes have been lost, and property damages from these fires is a growing concern. A major issue here is that the batteries, when charging, don’t cut off when fully charged (like our smartphones and tablet devices), so a supercharged or overheated unit can also combust.
But aren't there regulations in place to make sure these are safe?
These devices came to market so quickly that a standards for safe manufacturing, batteries and operations were not set. Huge numbers of factories in China knocked each other off, and no standards for safety seem to have been created abroad, or here in the US, where this novel item had no predecessor. It was all about getting as many out worldwide, for the least $$$ to attract a hot consumer market.
So what is being done currently?
The Consumer Product Safety commission is currently investigating 22 hoverboard fires – what is frustrating is that the exact mechanism of fires may vary from unit to unit, and there is no safety standard set….yet. Efforts are being made to identify why the fires are happening, and what standards can be set to assure consumers their purchase is safe.
In response to the risk of spontaneous combustion, the US airline industry has already decided not to take any chances: American, Alaska, Virgin,Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United Airlines have banned hoverboards on passenger flights, and the US Postal Service has stopped shipping hoverboards by air as well. Amazon and Target both temporarily suspended sales, and Overstock.com has stopped selling hoverboards at all.
Are they a toy or a vehicle? and if considered a vehicle are they legal?
It depends where you are. They have been banned entirely in the UK unless used on private property. In New York, there is legislation pending that would allow them on sidewalks, playgrounds and parks, but forbid their use in bike lanes and on streets. On the opposite end of the spectrum, beginning January 1 in California, hoverboards are being treated like motor vehicles. Along with motorized skateboards, they can ONLY be used on private property or in bike lanes, the user must be at least 16 years of age, and MUST wear a helmet. Their use on sidewalks is banned.
So, if Santa brought one into the house, how can we be as safe as possible?
- Don't buy cheap (less than $300) hoverboards; invest in higher-quality brands.
- Look for a model with a UL-certified charger or battery pack - these don’t guarantee that fire won’t happen, however
- Check manufacturer's warranty before you buy and look for recall notifications
- Avoid purchasing at kiosks - you want to know where the vendor is if there is a problem
- Unplug the hoverboard when it's completely charged to avoid overcharging
- Let the unit cool for an hour after use, before plugging in to re-charge
- Do not leave the hoverboard unattended while it's charging - and most certainly don't charge it overnight when all are sleeping
- Protect yourself – at the very least wear a helmet, and encourage use of elbow and wrist pads
- Follow local laws and respect pedestrians and those in your path
- NEVER operate a hoverboard when under the influence
- To avoid all instances of hoverboard self-destruction and personal injury, just don’t buy one.
I know these are super popular, but now we have yet another “toy” that prevents the user from getting real exercise. I’d rather see kids on skates and bikes than these devices. After all, we’re trying to promote a healthy safe lifestyle for all. Much like lawn darts and magnetized bucky balls, there are just some toys that might just need to go!
For a link to the video of the segment go to: https://youtu.be/WLRoPMOmp-M