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Minister: Speed limits on electric scooters will lead to "significant improvement" in safety

The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district has reported an increase in the number of patients treated for injuries related to an accident involving an electric scooter.

Sähköpotkulautojen aiheuttamia vaaroja kitketään
Yle News

Electric scooters in Helsinki will be subject to stricter speed limits at night time, as well as during the day in the downtown area of the capital, after an increase in the number of accidents the rentals.

"We will see a significant improvement immediately," Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka (SDP) said about the new measures after holding a meeting with e-scooter company representatives and authorities.

The availability of electric scooters may also be restricted in the vicinity of some bars, the minister added, and the distribution of information on traffic rules will be stepped up.

Helsinki-based scooter companies Voi, Tier and Lime have voluntarily agreed to automatically limit the speeds on their scooters. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the measures are being prepared under the leadership of the City of Helsinki, but the companies have already indicated their readiness to comply with the new restrictions.

"Some of the companies are ready to implement quite dramatic restrictions on availability, even immediately," Harakka said. "The companies understand that society cannot be expected to indefinitely pay the bill for accidents, if the companies themselves do not cooperate."

HUS: Scooter accidents have led to severe brain injuries

The dangers posed by electric scooters have been the subject of much public debate in recent weeks, with the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) reporting a spike in the number of patients being treated in emergency wards after a scooter-related accident during Midsummer week.

Between May and Midsummer week, more people were injured in electric scooter accidents than in accidents involving a bicycle in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

"It is often the head that has been injured," chief physician Arja Kobylin of the HUS acute emergency department said. "Most have mild brain injuries, but there have also been severe brain injuries too. Then that individual's life may be ruined, as their ability to function remains permanently impaired."

Kobylin added that severe brain injury can cause permanent fatigue, speech difficulties, paralysis or loss of mobility and, at worst, a head injury can be fatal.

Voi ready to limit speeds immediately

According to Max Thelen, Operations manager for Swedish electric scooter company Voi, the meeting with the minister went well and there was agreement about the issues.

"Speed limits will be created in the city centres, which we would be able to put in place from today [Wednesday]. Exactly what these restrictions will be will be decided later," Thelen said.

The companies may choose to introduce speed limits immediately, but Voi has indicated that it is awaiting the City of Helsinki’s recommendations.

Voi has created a traffic school for the use of electric scooters, where learners are rewarded with driving credits. In addition, the Voi app has a reaction test where a driver can test whether their reaction rate is sufficient for driving.

"Hopefully in the future, alcohol limits will be created for electric scooters in the same way as in Germany," Thelen said.

Voi conducted an experiment in Helsinki last weekend where the speed limits on scooters were automatically limited to 15 kilometres per hour.

The reduced speed was used for the period between 11pm and 6am in areas of Helsinki that have large concentrations of restaurants and bars, such as on Mannerheimintie, Bulevardi and Helsinginkatu.

The move was the first of its kind in Finland, as normally the maximum speed of electric scooters is 25 kilometres per hour.

"Although drunk driving is against our terms of use, we cannot completely prevent it," Chief Operating Officer Reetta Alastalo said in a company press release.

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