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By Jim Adler April 7, 2016


Hoverboards are finally here, but they are proving to be more of a hazard than a futuristic marvel. Photo by Automobile Italia (Flickr)

If you are unaware of what hoverboards are and how they work, then a quick primer on hoverboards will be very helpful. A modern hoverboard doesn’t hover at all: It is basically a battery-powered scooter without the handlebars, and that lack of extra control is part of the reason why they’re causing problems all over the world. In the United States, there have been at least 39 reported emergency room visits due to hoverboard accidents and 10 instances of hoverboards catching on fire. The problem with hoverboards is real, and it is attracting federal attention.

Following Safety Rules

There are two key safety rules that federal agencies and attorneys around the country are suggesting to help reduce hoverboard incidents. The first safety rule is to always wear a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads whenever you operate a hoverboard. Some of the more serious hoverboard injuries could have been prevented if the victims had worn the required safety gear.

The other safety rule is to gradually learn how to operate a hoverboard before you start going for long-distance or high-speed rides. One recent story told of a father who bought his son a hoverboard and the father decided that he wanted to try the board out himself. After only one day of riding a hoverboard, the father got a little too confident and wound up sustaining an injury that kept him out of work for 12 weeks. Videos on the Internet of basketball stars and actors falling off of hoverboards should also drive home the point that the safest way to operate a hoverboard is by gradually gaining experience until you have the device mastered.

The Real Safety Certifications of a Hoverboard

It is important to understand that while Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has certified certain parts of the hoverboard as safe (such as the battery and motor), the entire assembled hoverboard has not yet been given a full UL certification. A UL certification is the standard safety certification for any product sold in the United States and other parts of the world. Until the hoverboards themselves get full UL certification, consumers should be wary of the potential for injuries and property damage due to fires.

The Government Is Stepping In

In early 2016, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that it was doing a full evaluation of the hoverboards’ design to make sure it is safe enough to remain on the market. The Christmas 2015 shopping season proved to be very successful for hoverboard manufacturers, but those sales also came at a price in the form of injuries to consumers. Because the hoverboard represents a potential danger to American consumers, the CPSC is now considering mandating modifications to the hoverboard or removing the hoverboard from the American market completely.

After the Christmas 2015 season, hoverboard sales took a strong hit when Amazon.com announced that it would no longer sell hoverboards. Not only has Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, backed off of selling hoverboards, but it is also offering to take back any hoverboards that have been sold through Amazon for a full refund of the purchase price. When you consider the thousands of hoverboards Amazon has sold since the product was formally introduced in August 2015, that is a lot of money the company is willing to forgo for the safety of consumers.

Serious injuries and unexplained fires have put the hoverboard into the kind of spotlight no manufacturer or retailer wants a product to be in. Judging by the sustained brisk sales of hoverboards (despite the warnings that have been released since before Christmas 2015), it looks like the government is going to have to step in and protect consumers from themselves.

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