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Segways: Fantastic Fun or Risky Ride?

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Segways were the latest, greatest thing when they were introduced in 2001, and at that time seemed to have a bright future. Do you remember them? Since they were introduced, however, over 30 states have banned or limited their usage, labeling them hazardous to both the riders and to those around them.

In South Carolina, you can ride a Segway as part of guided tours in both Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Many people find them a pleasurable way to see an area. But even with proper training, segway injuries can occur.

What’s in a Word?

The word “Segway” comes from “segue,” which means “smooth transition.” The Segway PT (for personal transporter) has two wheels, a platform you stand on, is electrically-powered, and uses gyroscopic sensors that keep it stabilized and balanced while you ride it. Turning and steering are accomplished by shifting the handlebar to the left or right and by your own weight.

Segway PTs can travel over 12 miles per hour at top speed. As you might imagine, this fact means that you could sustain serious injury while riding one—or if you are struck by one.

Promising at First, But Then…

Municipalities, worried that Segways on sidewalks could hurt pedestrians, began banning their usage, followed by bans at places such as Disney World. The Disney ban especially angered a number of disabled persons who had bought Segways to help them get around the theme park.

Are Segways Legal on Sidewalks?

Even though Segways are allowed on sidewalks in many places, a number of municipalities still forbid them, such as San Francisco, New York City, and Boston. In some locales, Segways are used mostly by commercial outfits, such as tour companies, and by government organizations, such as police departments (for foot patrols).

Legal Woes

Segway, Inc., itself was sued for a rider’s traumatic brain injury, with $10 million awarded to the man. The injuries happened at a demonstration held by Segway in 2009 at Southern Connecticut State University, located in New Haven. Segway, Inc., did not supply helmets. Additionally, employees from the company encouraged the man who sustained the injury to ride the Segway blindfolded.

A 2010 study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine warned that traumatic brain injuries were becoming increasingly linked to Segway accidents, mostly because of riders who failed to wear a helmet. Oddly enough, just a few days before the study was published, the then-owner of Segway, Inc., Jim Heselden, was killed by falling off a cliff while riding his Segway.

But I’d Like to Try One!

These days, a reputable tour company will provide you with a helmet and instruction before you try your hand at a Segway. Keep these recommendations in mind should you want to enjoy a spin on one:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Practice sufficiently to become comfortable with the machine.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings, especially curbs, ruts, and other persons.
  • Keep your speed down and treat the Segway as a vehicle, not a toy.

If you have experienced an accident or injury in South Carolina, our injury attorneys can able to help you navigate the legal landscape.

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