Friday, October 21, 2005
Would a child survive a Segway collision?
Pedestrian injuries are a major problem in the United States. There were 78,000 pedestrian injuries and 4,700 fatalities in the US in 2000. Pedestrian deaths and injuries disproportionately occur to individuals at the young and old ends of the age spectrum. Children are particularly vulnerable given their developmental immaturity, which is characterized by often impulsive behavior and poor judgment. Allowing motorized vehicles on the sidewalk will require children to negotiate motorized traffic, something they are developmentally incapable of doing. Using some basic assumptions, the calculated amount of force involved in a collision between a Segway device and a child can be significant and could easily cause serious injury. The purpose of a sidewalk is the separation of pedestrians from motorized traffic.
Even if the Segway device were able to come to an abrupt halt from a speed of 12.5 mph, the operator will be thrown forward and into the pedestrian or other object that was struck based on the laws of Newtonian physics. Individuals that speak to how quickly the Segway can stop are also forgetting that a young child can dart unexpectedly in front of one of these devices traveling at top speed with no time for the operator to react. A collision is inevitable and the laws of physics will prevail, and potentially, a significant energy transfer will occur to the pedestrian and also to the operator, resulting in injury. Segway representatives demonstrate a Segway riding over the top of a persons hand without injury; however, this is irrelevant bafflegab to the real injury hazard of the device colliding head-on into a pedestrian.
Reassurances from the segway.com marketers and a brief demonstration of the product, without independent objective evaluation and data, are inadequate criteria for departure from current law that exists to protect both device operators and pedestrians. Children are a particularly vulnerable group to injury and deserve the full protection provided by our laws.
In his letter to the Environment and Public Works Committee, Dr. Louis Z. Cooper, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated: Children, elderly individuals, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations cannot - and should not - be expected to negotiate motorized traffic on sidewalks, trails and other walkways.