SPOTLIGHT: Meet Emma Harrington from ScootSafe
E-scooters are a fantastic way to get around busy city centers and from one end of the college campus to the other. It's on-trend to fly across the pavement, and you don't even need to figure out a way to lock it up when you get to your destination.
However, the humble scooter can be a bit of a danger zone. Emma Harrington has been the Director of Injury Prevention and Education at Shepherd Center for seven years. These impressive credentials allowed her to secure government funding to start ScootSafe. We caught up with Emma and wanted to let her share all about this passion project.
What is ScootSafe?
The folks at ScootSafe want to keep you from bruising your peach, and they do mean your peachy behind rather than the delicious Georgia peaches you will find in Atlanta!
After noticing a worrying increase in scooter-related injuries and scooter-related death in the Georgia area, Emma knew it was time to create an evidence-based electric scooter safety campaign.
ScootSafe's goals are two-fold:
- Increasing Awareness: via safety checklists, infographics and becoming a one-stop-shop for electric scooter safety info.
- Increasing Protective Factors: since most e-scooter accidents affect the head, it's essential to protect your noggin' with a helmet.
All About Emma HarringtonAt FEND, we are pretty nerdy about head injury safety, and chatting to Emma is always a delight. Injury prevention is at the heart of everything she does at the Shepherd Center and the ScootSafe campaign.
Before getting into the ins and outs of catastrophic brain and spinal cord injuries, Emma spent time as a researcher and a mental health clinician. Her previous roles uniquely position her to lead the way in creating lasting behavioral changes.
Let's Get Into the Interview!
Enough background info for you? Emma, the floor is yours!
FEND: What is ScootSafe, and what inspired you to start the program?
Emma: Atlanta became the wild west of e-scooters a few years back, and we were starting to see an alarming number of injuries and deaths in our state. At Shepherd, we were also beginning to admit people needing our services for catastrophic injuries caused by e-scooter crashes. At the time, there had been four deaths in our city, and it was difficult to tell just how many injuries were occurring due to a lack of a state or national database tracking these specific and new injuries. At Shepherd Center, we believe that micromobility is the wave of the future. Rather than fight against scooters coming to town, we wanted to work out evidence-based ways to make this mode of transportation safer for all street users.
ScootSafe was born out of a wonderful partnership and a very generous grant from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. ScootSafe GA is an innovative safety campaign designed to stem the e-scooter injuries and fatalities occurring on our roadways. Shepherd Center has embarked on a digital media campaign targeting the risk and protective factors of e-scooter riders. Through a three-month intensive digital campaign, a virtual conference, events along the Beltline and a dedicated website, we hope to increase helmet use and decrease speed and intoxicated riding.
Utilizing Statesboro, Georgia, as our control group, this pilot program is in full swing and aims to decipher if mass media messaging can affect positive behavior change when it comes to micro-mobility and injury prevention.
FEND: What was the most surprising thing you have learned along the way?
Emma: Scooters can be a polarizing topic, and I was prepared to take on a good bit of criticism for not being anti-scooter. I was most surprised by how willing most people and organizations were to work together towards solutions. I believe we have enjoyed so much community buy-in because we are following the data and focusing our efforts on risk and protective factors as it relates to e-scooter safety.
We know there are significant issues with ADA compliance, equity, accessibility and infrastructure to contend with and hope that our program is a small step in building community and creating a space to come up with innovative solutions to make micromobility work for everyone in a safe manner.
FEND: What are you most proud of with ScootSafe?
Emma: I am most proud of the work we did on the ScootSafe Summit. We had such incredible speakers, and without these partnerships, we would not have been able to make it work. It was our first virtual summit and a learning curve for sure, but our marketing partner, NeoLuxe, held our hands throughout and pulled off an amazing event.
The end product speaks to the creativity of NeoLuxe and the professionalism of our presenters. We planned the summit along with our risk and protective factors and had outstanding presentations available online at ScootSafeGA.com. We had the best time filming the b-roll around town with our new FEND helmets!
FEND: What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
Emma: Behavioral change is a tricky thing. How do you get scooter riders to wear a properly fitted helmet? That is the challenge, and hopefully, this pilot project will show if mass media campaigns benefit the target audience and enhance simple safety measures.
FEND: What are some tips you can provide for safe scooting?
Emma: Shepherd Center is a catastrophic brain and spinal cord injury hospital, and as such, our number one way to protect yourself on a scooter will always be to wear a helmet. When looking at the protective factors for scooter riders, we see the importance of bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, being key.
In Atlanta, it is against the rules to ride on the sidewalk, so having properly protected bike lanes will go far in separating car and scooter traffic and keeping people safer. We also recognize that the first eight trips on a scooter seem to be the most dangerous. Riding a scooter takes some getting used to, so first-time rider education is important in mitigating that risky time for folks.
In our city, we have seen scooters become a fun mode of transportation when on a night out, alcohol and drugs are routinely present in the injured population reports to emergency rooms nationwide, and our city is no exception. Understanding that scooters do not take the place of rideshare is important, especially for our young adult riders.
FEND: Any new initiatives or events coming up you would like to share?
Emma: ScootSafe is the start of something we hope will gain momentum. We are back out in September to observe scooter behaviors in both Atlanta and Statesboro to see if our pilot program had an effect. We will publish all of our findings by the end of the year.
FEND: What do you think other people should know about ScootSafe or is there anything else you would like to share?
Emma: All of our materials, from research to artwork, are readily available for the public at ScootSafeGA.com. While this project was done in Georgia, it can be replicated anywhere, and we welcome you to use our materials. Knowledge should be free, and if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch!
We hope you enjoyed learning all about how ScootSafe is targeting public consciousness with its innovative safety campaign. Next time you want to scoot off into the night, remember:
- Do not ride while intoxicated.
- Reduce your speed.
- Always wear a helmet.
All About FEND
At FEND, we are pretty proud of the way we've added our own blend of innovation to the bike helmets of yesterday. Goodbye to bulky, hot and inconvenient helmets.
We know that the only type of helmet that works is the one you'll want to wear. After asking hundreds of city riders, we created the perfect foldable helmet, ready to get you where you need to go on a bike, e-scooter or skateboard. Safely enhance your commute!
Pssst: You're pretty into safety, huh? You're in luck because we've written up some safety tips for you on your next commute.