The hints start around Halloween. It’s obvious your kid wants a hoverboard for Christmas.
What’s a parent to do?
You want your kid to be happy, but you also want your kid to be safe. Do you give in like the father in “A Christmas Story” and buy the much sought-after gift. Or, do you dig in your heels like Ralphie’s mom and repeatedly state the 2017 hoverboard equivalent of, “You’ll shoot your eye out”?
If you type “Hoverboard Accidents” into YouTube, your immediate answer will probably be no. Page after page of videos titled “Scary Hoverboard Accident,” “10 Fire Exploding Hoverboards Caught on Camera” and “Epic Hoverboard Fails Compilation” will make you think hoverboards were invented by the devil himself.
If you type “Hoverboard Accidents” into a search engine, you’ll probably change your answer from “no” to, “Oh, hell, no!”
In 2015, every media outfit from local news stations to Inside Edition were excitedly running stories about bleeding children, burning houses and exploding hoverboards. Even celebrities felt the embarrassment of wiping out publicly (after they uploaded their own videos, of course.) Mike Tyson took a spill in his foyer then famously said, “I’m too old for this sh*t!”
Law firms began advertising for hoverboard product liability clients. Emergency Room doctors gave their opinions to the press. The TSA banned hoverboards from all flights.
More than 2.5 million hoverboards were sold in the United States in 2015 so these horror stories were of interest to a lot of people. And there seemed to be a consensus among people in-the-know: hoverboards caused injury and death…hoverboards could explode.
So, why are hoverboards still on the market?
Well, things changed.
Burning Down the House
Lithium ion batteries were the cause of the hoverboards exploding and catching on fire. These batteries were manufactured in China with little or no oversight. So, the Underwriter’s Laboratory decided to step in.
The UL “is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions.”
From a 2016 report:
NORTHBROOK, Ill., May 10, 2016 — UL, a global safety science organization, today announced that it has issued the first safety certification to the UL 2272 safety requirements for electrical systems of self-balancing scooters (aka hoverboards) that was launched in February 2016. After completing a construction evaluation, safety testing, and complying with UL 2272’s marking, labeling, and user instruction requirements, the hoverboard model N3M320 manufactured by Ninebot (parent company of Segway) has been found to meet all the requirements. UL reminds consumers that the UL 2272 certification does not address riding safety and that proper safety precautions should be taken when using self-balancing scooters.
In other words, do not buy a hoverboard if it doesn’t meet the UL 2272 safety requirements. Amazon—along with other major retailers, won’t sell a hoverboard if it doesn’t meet the UL 2272
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, recommends hoverboards with the UL2272 but it doesn’t guarantee a hoverboard won’t catch fire even after meeting these stringent standards. They encourage consumers to check their website often for any hoverboard recalls.
Thrills and Spills
Even if they don’t explode, can hoverboards still be dangerous to the rider?
According to the American Association of Pediatrics. “children under age 16 should not operate unlicensed motor vehicles” citing the number of injuries between Christmas and New Year’s.
The Orthopaedic Insitute claimed the injuries were caused by the product’s design and not just rider error.
The source of the fall risk from hoverboards may not be as obvious as it seems. The mechanics of the self-balancing scooters themselves, and not necessarily rider error, may be a major contributing cause of the high rate of falls. Specifically, the devices may not accurately account for the weights of different riders, and therefore, the hoverboard can lurch forward or backward unexpectedly. This may not come as a surprise when considering that self-balancing scooters support weight ranges from 45 pounds to up to 300 pounds.
However, watch those “hoverboard accident” videos and you’ll eventually yell, “You idiot!”
Yes, rider error is sometimes—perhaps even often—to blame.
It’s Just What I Wanted
If you decide to buy a hoverboard for Christmas, make sure your kid realizes it’s more than just a toy.
Read the instructions before operating a hoverboard—and maybe even watch an instructional video. Try it for the first time in an open area, not in the dining room near the fish tank. Make sure your kid wears the proper protection, especially a helmet. Tell them to avoid rough terrain or going uphill until they’ve mastered their hoverboard.
Most importantly, don’t leave a hoverboard unattended while charging.
What Kind Do I Buy?
Unless your kid has mentioned a specific brand of hoverboard, read the consumer reviews on Amazon or similar sites before purchasing. Also, there are numerous articles about the best hoverboards for 2017, including this one from BestReviews.com.