BY AMANDA MOSES
Hoverboards, the latest technological craze, are turning out to be more dangerous than fun for their owners. Injuries from hard falls include deep tissue bruises, broken bones and head injuries as well as burns because the hoverboards spontaneously burst into flames while being ridden or charging.
For these reasons, just before the holidays, the New York Police Department declared hoverboards violate state vehicle and traffic laws and are, therefore, illegal in New York City. For months these transportation devices skirted the law. However, this is no longer the case. Those found gliding through the streets may find themselves facing a $200 fine.
The appeal of hoverboards, which hit the market last summer, is that they offer consumers the opportunity to imitate Marty McFly riding through the streets on his hoverboard in Back to the Future Part II. But, in reality, these items don’t hover—they glide with the help of two wheels and a motor. Basically, it’s a motorized skateboard, with a bit more stability because each wheel has its own motor (allowing each foot to individually control steering).
According to tech news site PC Advisor, hoverboards can reach a speed of 10 mph and can travel as far as 12 miles. Although these statistics don’t seem dangerous on paper, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that there have been several emergency room-treated injuries.
In addition to physical injuries caused by riding hoverboards, this new tech uses lithium-ion batteries, which can explode when overworked. According to researcher and engineer, Jay Whitacre from Carnegie Mellon University, the defect lies within the lithium-ion batteries. “Small defects in the manufacturing or materials can lead to the batteries being shorted with each other after a small amount of use. When this happens, especially when the batteries are charged, a lot of heat is generated inside the cells and this leads to electrolyte boiling, which is the rupture of the cell casing, and then there is a significant fire,” Whitacre told Wired Magazine.
In light of the reported hoverboard fires, Amazon has required manufactures to provide evidence of safety compliance. Companies such as Swagway boards and Phunkeeduck, have been removed from Amazon’s sellers list.
The Spring Creek Towers’ Department of Public Safety will comply with NYC law and riders of hoverboards on Spring Creek Towers’ property will be subject to legal penalties. According to the Co-Deputy Director of Public Safety, Jonathan Taormina, “Hoverboards are considered to be unlicensed and unregistered vehicles and will be treated as such.” NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 114-d and 125, and Article 34C 1271 specifically classifies electric scooters, or the electric skateboard—the hoverboard—as motorized vehicles that requires license and registration.
“They are dangerous and are especially so when operated on sidewalks with pedestrians present. The operators are subject to summonses and seizure of the “vehicle” by the police,” said Taormina. He also warns consumers that these items are dangerous both in the streets and at home since they have been found to catch fire while charging due to the substandard lithium-ion batteries.