SINGAPORE: The first time patient service associate Goh Sook Leng, 33, rode a personal mobility device (PMD), it rained.
She and her friend had rented PMDs in December last year, intending to ride from Clarke Quay to East Coast, and then to Marina Barrage.
The weather started out sunny, but began to drizzle towards the end of her journey. Although she initially took cover from the rain, she later decided to continue riding as she wanted to return her PMD before the rental period expired.
When the drizzle started to turn into a heavy downpour, Ms Goh decided to stop riding and squeezed lightly on the brakes, intending to bring the device to a slow stop.
Instead, the PMD came to a sharp stop, sending Ms Goh flying. She landed on the road, and the right side of her face hit the decorative rocks lining the path.
She bled profusely. In the moments it took for a passer-by and a security guard to come to her aid, her face had swelled up badly.
“(I sustained) multiple fractures on the right of face,” said Ms Goh, who needed surgery to insert three implants into her face.
Injuries sustained by PMD riders such as Ms Goh have seen a “sharp increase”, said Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) at a media briefing on Monday (Oct 21).
Between January 2017 and September this year, 213 riders were admitted to TTSH for PMD-related incidents, according to a study conducted by the hospital. During that 33-month period, six patients died.
For the whole of last year, TTSH saw 87 injured riders. In 2017, there were 47 such patients.
This year alone, however, 79 PMD riders were admitted to TTSH, translating into a 68 per cent increase from 2017, noted Dr Sunder Balasubramaniam, associate consultant for trauma services at TTSH.
Facial injuries such as those sustained by Ms Goh accounted for 12 per cent of all PMD injuries seen by TTSH between January 2017 and September this year, while head and neck injuries accounted for 41 per cent.
“Head injuries are worrying – the potential disability can be quite severe, the recovery can be very prolonged,” said Dr Sunder.
Such injuries can range from less severe head injuries such as concussions, lacerations and tears, while more severe injuries, such as bleeding in the brain, could result in death.
During the study period, TTSH also saw six PMD-related cases that involved pedestrians.
Of the six, five pedestrians sustained Tier-3 injuries - the least severe band. The remaining patient sustained injuries in the most serious category, Tier 1.
The severity of injury is tabulated according to the internationally recognised Injury Severity Score (ISS), which assigns a severity score depending on the region and seriousness of the injury.
AGE AND CAUSE OF INJURY
According to TTSH's data, more than half of injured riders were below the age of 40, who should be "out there working", said Dr Sunder.
“They are not the usual patients you would expect in a hospital, or who have a prolonged recovery,” he said.
“The half that’s (above) 40, and especially those above 60, have a separate worry, which is that these are the patients who are frailer or who may have other medical problems that make their injuries worse.”
He added that the most common reason for injuries are instances where PMD riders “lost control and skidded”.
Out of the 22 most serious, or Tier-1, injuries seen by TTSH, 13 of had "self-skidded".
“The PMDs themselves offers very little protection,” said Dr Teo Li Tserng, director of trauma services at TTSH.
“If you look at the biomechanics of the PMD, it is not meant to swerve. It is meant to go straight ... So once they skid, they skid.”
Explaining why TTSH felt it was timely to share the findings, Dr Teo said that TTSH wanted to remind PMD users that individual responsibility is an important part of injury prevention, other than legislation.
Of the 46 riders with injuries in Tier 1 and 2 categories, only seven had worn helmets, the hospital's data showed.
“We believe that (with) the recent hype in the number of PMD incidents, it is important for us to share with the public that they do also have ownership of their own safety. And of course, a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones, should they continue to use the PMD in an irresponsible manner,” said Dr Teo.
To educate the public on the risks associated with PMD riding, TTSH will be holding a public forum called Life Doesn’t Have A Reset button. Ride Safe at the TTSH theatrette on Saturday (Oct 26).