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Accident Spotlights Safety Concerns With Segways

Entrepreneur Dean Kamen invented the Segway with the intention of revolutionizing human transportation. In reality, though, Kamen created another device with the potential for human injury. One recent example of this was the tragic death of Englishman James Heselden in September, who fell off a cliff and into a river while riding his Segway. Heselden was not only a Segway user, but the then-owner of the Segway company, which he purchased from Kamen in 2009. This accident and a recent study spotlight safety concerns with Segways.

Death by Segway

James Heselden was an experienced Segway operator, but that did not prevent him from dying in a Segway-related accident at the age of 62. Reports say that Heselden, who was out patrolling his vast English estate on a more rugged Segway model, skidded off a 30-foot cliff. Heselden's body and the Segway were both found in the Wharfe River below the cliff a short time later. While the exact cause of his death is unknown, no foul play is suspected. This incident highlights safety concerns with riding Segways, especially on uneven terrain.

Segway Injury Study

Tens of thousands of Segways have been sold since 2001. This unique form of transportation is steered by leaning forward to speed up and backwards to slow down, is battery-powered and is stabilized by gyroscopes. Before riders use Segways, the company recommends dealer-issued safety training, including reading materials, watching a video and practicing Segway operation. In addition, it suggests riders wear helmets and closely watch their surroundings for possible obstacles to avoid serious accidents and injuries.

In a recent study, researchers at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. say that Segway injuries are on the rise. Based on studying 41 people involved in Segway-related accidents from 2005 to 2008, researchers calculated that around 25 percent of the emergency room visitors were admitted to the hospital. Some were admitted for traumatic brain injuries, but others needed surgery for broken bones. All of the recorded injuries were sustained by falling off a moving Segway, which can reach a top speed of 12 miles per hour.

Segway to Court

Police officers, mall cops, and airport staff use Segways to make their rounds quickly and efficiently. Tour groups also use Segways as an alternative to walking, which allows tourists to see more and tire less easily. As this mode of human transportation continues to gain popularity and becomes more affordable, more Segways will appear alongside pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. This may mean that more accidents and injuries involving Segways will occur, so people should be aware of their dangers and call a personal injury attorney if injury occurs.

Related Resource: NY Times "Segway Owner Dies in Segway Crash"

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