Hoverboard Safety 101: What you need to know

Hoverboard: It’s a word that is about to be added to the dictionary.

Celebrities use them. They are a hit with the kids and fun for anyone to drive. But there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about them. If you are shopping for a hoverboard this holiday season, here are the hoverboarding or skateboarding safety tips that you should know before you buy.

First, the more accurate name is “self-balancing scooter” and hoverboards are actually two-wheeled motorized gadgets. They work like a miniature Segway minus the handlebars, moving forward when you tilt forward, and braking and then going into reverse when you lean back. Just like a Segway, you face forward while driving. You control and steer it by moving your feet, legs and torso.

Hoverboards are sold by a number of companies, and it is difficult to know which ones are safe.

There have been reports that hoverboards can combust or explode, and this seems to be down to faulty batteries. The devices are powered by large lithium-ion batteries that have been known to overheat and explode in rare circumstances. There are reports of fires that have involved hoverboards in 10 states. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning for those consumers who get them as Christmas gifts: do not charge hoverboards while they are unattended.

There are weight and slope limits for some of them. Only Powerboard states that children under 13 years should not ride them. The other manufacturers do not state explicit age limits although the Swagway and Phunkeeduck manuals say that children, pregnant women and elderly people should not ride the scooter.

Children under the weight limit will struggle with them, since the scooter is not able to detect their weight and balance properly. Parents and guardians who intend to get their child a hoverboard, will need to decide whether it will be suitable.

As is the case with skateboarders, pedestrians do not feel safe sharing sidewalks with them and motorists are not comfortable sharing the road with them. The debate continues on whether or not they are means of transport.

British authorities say hoverboards have declared that it is illegal to ride them in public. On the other hand, in California, the legislature has recently signed a law that allows motorized devices, including hoverboards, to go anywhere that a bicycle can go. This includes both cycle paths and roads.

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