TUSTIN, Calif. -- Eight-year-old David Raphael thinks those fold-up, foot-powered metal scooters are safe.
So does his mom.
"This is much better than riding a bicycle ... or a skateboard," said Elizabeth Raphael, who bought her son a scooter this summer to ride in his suburban Southern California neighborhood. "They are much safer. You can use your feet."
But the shiny, silver scooters that everyone seems to be riding these days have sent nearly 9,500 Americans, mostly children, to emergency rooms with injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.
By comparison, about 60,000 people suffered injuries using skateboards last year and about 100,000 were injured using inline skates, according to the commission.
Scooter injuries surged this summer with more than 4,000 reported in August, compared with 500 in May, the commission said. Children younger than 15 accounted for nearly nine out of 10 of the 9,411 accidents this year.
Although the majority resulted in only cuts, scrapes, bruises and sprains, a third involved broken bones or dislocations. No deaths were reported.
"People don't think about the fact that these scooters can be as dangerous as bikes and skateboards," said Dr. Jill Posner, 33, who practices emergency pediatric medicine at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.
There, she said, she has seen an increasing number of scooter injuries this summer, the most serious ones involving children with head injuries who were hit by cars.
The scooters, first widely sold in the United States late last year, are souped-up versions of the low-tech, kick-powered vehicles made popular in the 1950s.
The scooter industry expects to sell 2 million to 5 million this year, the commission said. That's at least $200 million in business, up from virtually zero last year.
Unlike old-fashioned scooters, which were sometimes fashioned from boards and roller skates, the new models have narrow wheels similar to those on fast-moving inline skates and metal frames that weigh less than 10 pounds. They cost about $80 to $120.
"These are certainly not your grandmother's scooters from the 50's," said Ann Brown, the safety commission's chairwoman. "Many kids are ending up in hospital emergency rooms instead of classrooms."
Brown said nearly two-thirds of scooter-related injuries could have been prevented or lessened if riders had been wearing helmets, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads. Children younger than 8 shouldn't use the scooters without close supervision, she added.
Some scooter manufacturers blamed the accidents on smaller models with inline skate wheels.
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