Curbing Hoverboards

Britain, 60 airlines and a dozen universities have this in common: restrictions or outright bans on hoverboards.

January 6, 2016
 

“College campuses may be the last safe haven for hoverboards,” proclaimed MarketWatch only a few days ago. But the Wall Street Journal sister publication might have spoken a little too soon about the nascent, now-imperiled campus fad.

Recently, as many as a dozen universities have announced temporary campuswide bans on the self-balancing scooters -- think Segways with nothing to hold onto -- in light of safety concerns raised by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC, which has been periodically updating its figures on Twitter, says it is investigating reports of 28 hoverboard-related fires in 19 states, and “70 ER-treated injuries & counting.”

“Some of these injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions and internal organ injuries,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a  pre-Christmas statement last month. “CPSC engineers in our National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Maryland have tested and will continue to test new and damaged boards in search of an answer for why some models caught fire during the charging stage and others caught fire while in use.”

More than 60 airlines bar hoverboards on their flights, and it is illegal to ride them on public roads in Britain. Now some universities are following suit.

Among the more recent adopters of the ban are American University, George Washington University and Louisiana State University.

“These devices’ batteries can burst into flame -- especially while being charged -- resulting in a metal fire that can burn with intense heat. We are not willing to risk your safety and your community’s safety,” LSU's department of residential life wrote in a Dec. 30 letter to students. “After consultation with LSU Risk Management and Safety, we have made the decision to prohibit the use, possession or storage of electronic skateboards including self-balancing boards/scooters and other similar equipment in all university-managed residence halls, apartments and Greek houses, until safety standards for them have been adequately developed and implemented across all models.”

At least four universities in Connecticut have also implemented bans, according to NBC, and still more are considering doing the same. Not all, however, have gone so far as to outlaw them entirely.

“We were primarily concerned with storage, which is where most of the incidents that have been occurring have happened,” said David Isgur, director of media relations at the University of Hartford, where hoverboards are banned only in residence halls.

As for their use around campus, the university treats hoverboards like “other similar type items on campus,” Isgur said. “We obviously want people to take the proper precautions when they do that, but we don’t ban them. In the same way a person can use a skateboard on campus, hoverboard use is also appropriate.” But “if [students] did have them and wanted to bring them on campus, it would be up to them to make arrangements as to where to keep them.”

Officials at several universities said that with their campuses still closed, it’s hard to tell how students feel about the ban.

Students have even been relatively quiet on social media, though what reaction there is tends toward the sarcastic.

Longboards may be safe for a while longer. At least until Lexus perfects its magnetized, liquid nitrogen-cooled hoverboard that actually hovers.

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