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As Hoverboard Injuries Increase so do Bans

TRANSCRIPT: If you’ve got a hoverboard, the list of places where you can ride it is getting shorter – The PATH, MTA and more than 30 universities have recently announced a ban on the boards. As Isabella Kulkarni reports, the motorized scooters have been both under fire and ON fire lately

KULKARNI: Hoverboards are illegal in New York City – so gliding on the sidewalk or street could get you a $200 fine. The devices don’t actually hover, they’re more like a slimmed-down Segway, without the pole. Len Dolan is the head of fire safety at Kean (KANE) University in New Jersey. He says he banned hoverboards from campus, because they’re a fire hazard,

DOLAN: We have several thousand students in our dorms and WE KNOW THESE THINGS ARE ON it was my opinion we shouldn’t be waiting for a fire to occur before we took an action. (00:10)

KULKARNI: And hoverboards are catching on fire. The US Consumer Protection Product Safety Commission, says since December it’s received more than 60 reports of flaming boards, destroying at least two homes. A quick YouTube search for Hoverboard fires and you’ll get pages of this….

[clip of fire]

KULKARNI: That’s a video of a hoverboard catching on fire, uploaded in December from Delvon Simmons. And it’s not just fires that have people concerned.


Emily Fuhrman is sitting next to her physical therapist, Susan Scanga (SCAYNGA). She’s slowly turning her palm upwards towards the ceiling.

SCANGA: look at that! you’re at 40– you’re almost at 50!

KULKARNI: Scanga is measuring Fuhrman’s wrist mobility — it’s been limited since she fell off a Hoverboard at a Hanukkah party back in December.

FUHRMAN: you can see the scars here, the surgeon made an incision on my hand and on my forearm.

KULKARNI: The scars are big, about half the length of a finger, they’re purple and dimpled. Fuhrman’s fall was so bad, she had a huge metal rod sticking out of her arm for about 2 months to hold her fragmented bones together. She shows me the picture,

FUHRMAN:  Omg that looks like edward scissor-hands or something. I know I had a bionic arm for a while.

KULKARNI: Fuhrman’s boyfriend, Jamie Propp, says a friend encouraged her to try it out.

PROPP: it went to being this moment of emily’s doing the hoverboard and doing it pretty well on it to holy… she’s seriously injured and we need to get her medical attention immediately.

KULKARNI: Fuhrman says she’s got pretty good balance. The main problem, was getting off the board.

PROPP: There is a way to dismount, but it’s not intuitive, that’s to step backwards off of it.

KULKARNI: : The Consumer Product Safety Commission is the organization responsible for making sure products, like hoverboards, are safe. Patty Davis is a spokesperson there.

DAVIS: We have seen hundreds of emergency room visits associated to hoverboard falls.

KULKARNI: The Commission is investigating dozens of hoverboard companies for safety concerns from fires and falls. They issued an open letter to all manufacturers last month – most of them based in China – to make safer boards. And within days, some of the nation’s largest retailers like ToysRUs, Amazon and Walmart stopped selling them. And with most hoverboards being manufactured overseas, Davis says,

DAVIS:These hoverboards if they fail to meet that standards will be stopped at the ports or seized.

KULKARNI: And in the meantime, the Commission is asking hoverboard manufacturers, any of them, to work to meet the underwriters’ laboratory – safety standards. Thats where John Drengenberg comes in,

DRENGENBERG: I’m the consumer safety director at Underwriter’s laboratory UL.

KULKARNI: You may know their logo, a little circle with a UL in the center that’s on everything from your toaster to your television. They regulate all kinds of electronics by making safety standards for products that are already on store shelves. Drengenberg says the biggest problem is with the lithium ion batteries inside

DRENGENBERG: Hoverboards have many more lithium ion batteries than your laptop or your cellphone.

KULKARNI: And unlike your laptop, none of the boards are UL certified. A number of people also misuse them, by overcharging the batteries which Drengenberg says, could be causing the fires. But despite the government’s pressure on manufacturers to make the boards safer, places are still selling. That surprises Jamie Propp, the boyfriend of Emily Fuhrman, who broke her wrist, her boyfriend Jamie Propp says he is still shocked hoverboards are on store shelves.

PROPP: [laughs] They’re kind of like these trojan horses in a way because they’re so appealing because who wouldn’t want to look cool gliding down the street with their headphones, just kind of chilling, doing 360s

KULKARNI: And doing 360s and doing them safely are two different thing. In the meantime, Fuhrman won’t be testing gliding skills anytime soon. Isabella Kulkarni, Columbia Radio News.


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