E-Bike Risks Exposed: Shocking Teenagers’ Accidents Reveal a Dangerous Combination

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E-Bike Safety Concerns Rise After Teen Crashes


On a Thursday evening in late June, Clarissa Champlain learned that her 15-year-old son Brodee had been in a terrible crash, the latest teen victim of an e-bike accident.

Tragic Accidents

He had been riding from home to shot-putting practice. The e-bike, a model made by Rad Power, had a top speed of 20 miles per hour, but his route took him on a busy road with a 55-mile-per-hour limit. While turning left, he was clipped by a Nissan van and thrown violently.

Ms. Champlain rushed to the hospital and was taken to Brodee’s room. She could see the marks left by the chin strap of his bike helmet. “I went to grab his head and kiss him,” she recalled. “But there was no back of his head. It wasn’t the skull, it was just mush.”

A State of Emergency

Three days later, another teenage boy was taken to the same hospital after the e-bike he was riding collided with a car, leaving him sprawled beneath a BMW, hurt but alive. In the days following, the town of Encinitas, where both incidents occurred, declared a state of emergency for e-bike safety.

Rising Safety Concerns

The e-bike industry is booming, but the summer of 2023 has brought sharp questions about how safe e-bikes are, especially for teenagers. Many e-bikes can exceed the 20-mile-per-hour speed limit that is legal for teenagers in most states; some can go 70 miles an hour. But even when ridden at legal speeds, there are risks, especially for young, inexperienced riders merging into traffic with cars.

“The speed they are going is too fast for sidewalks, but it’s too slow to be in traffic,” said Jeremy Collis, a sergeant at the North Coastal Station of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating Brodee’s accident.

Regulation and Oversight

To some policymakers and law enforcement officials, the technology has far outpaced existing laws, regulations and safety guidelines. Police and industry officials charge that some companies appear to knowingly sell products that can easily evade speed limits and endanger young riders.

“It’s not like a bicycle,” Sergeant Collis said. “But the laws are treating it like any bicycle.”

  • Two federal agencies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said they were evaluating “how best to oversee the safety of e-bikes,” according to a statement provided by the highway safety agency.

Communities Spreading Awareness

Communities have begun to alert their residents to the dangers of e-bikes. In June, the police department in Bend, Ore., ran a public service campaign acquainting the public with the e-bike laws that were frequently being broken there. Days later, a 15-year-old boy was killed when the e-bike he was riding was struck by a van.

Sheila Miller, who is the spokeswoman for the Bend police and helped develop the public service campaign, emphasized that not everything that calls itself an e-bike qualifies as one, or is safe or legal for minors. Under Oregon law, which is more restrictive than those in most states, a person must be at least 16 to ride an e-bike of any kind.

Industry Growth and Lack of Regulation

The typical e-bike has functioning pedals as well as a motor that is recharged with an electrical cord; the pedals and the motor can be used individually or simultaneously. Unlike a combustion engine, an electric motor can accelerate instantly, which makes e-bikes appealing to ride.

Law enforcement officials have begun to express concerns about the minimal training required of teenage e-bike riders, and about their behavior. Some states have begun to raise the training requirements for young drivers, including adding graduated license programs that require extended hours of supervised driving, limit night driving or restrict the number or age of passengers.

Call for Regulations and Safe Use

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit e-bike use by people under 12 and “state the intent of the Legislature to create an e-bike license program with an online written test and a state-issued photo identification for those persons without a valid driver’s license.”

As a transportation solution, e-bikes seem promising. But, ensuring the safety of both riders and the general public is a crucial concern.


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