Hover boards float their way into the national hot seat

Crashes, explosions and fire have all been cited as reasons for banning hover boards on campus at St. Cloud State, but recently the U.S. Government also followed suit, claiming the tech toy to be “dangerous,” even threatening to shut manufacturers down if they do not comply with safety standards.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a nation-wide letter Feb. 18 to manufacturers, importers and retailers of the “self-balancing scooters” popularly known as hover boards.

The letter, written by Robert Howell of the Office of Compliance and Field Operations states, “Self-balancing scooters that do not meet safety standards pose an unreasonable risk of fire to consumers. Consumers risk serious injury or death if their self-balancing scooters ignite and burn.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Self-balancing hover board. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Although there are no reports of St. Cloud State students encountering fire or serious injury from the machines, SCSU student Sydney Beth Alexis de Boer owns one and has experienced first-hand how they can be dangerous.

“I was perfectly fine riding mine to classes in the fall and I was very proud that I hadn’t yet wiped out or had an accident,” she said. “Until one day I was running late to class and decided to ride it and then the wheel hit a deep crack in the side walk and I tumbled off and ripped my pants.”

De Boer is not alone when it comes to these crashes, as a slew of YouTube videos of hover board accidents can attest.

Overall, the CPSC received reports from Dec. 1 through Feb. 17 from 24 states of 52 self-balancing scooter fires that resulted in property damages amounting to $2 million – including the destruction of two homes and one vehicle.

The transportation device gained popularity in the fall, even making the list for top-selling items during the holiday season. That is why many students were disappointed when St. Cloud State University banned the device during winter break.

Public Safety sent an email to all students saying, “In an effort towards safety, we are issuing an immediate ban on hover boards and similar motorized or mechanized self-balancing devices.  News reports indicate that there have been fires, explosions, and injuries related to hover boards that are not limited to one production line or brand.”

For students like Jeremiah Krueger who received a hover board for Christmas, the news of the ban was disappointing.

“I was super upset,” Krueger said. “I think they are a lot of fun, despite the risks. I personally haven’t had any problems with mine.”

De Boer said she understood the university’s concerns for safety, but was still disappointed in the overall ban.

“I wish they weren’t banned on campus because I paid quite a bit of money for that transportation that I’d like to use. I understand maybe not being able to ride them in buildings, but I feel like it should be okay outside,” said De Boer.

The rule won’t necessarily last forever though, as the university said they are waiting for more research and safety implementations to take place before they lift the ban.

De Boer said, “I have heard of incidents where they ‘explode,’ but that was happening a lot around Christmas time. I think it has something to do with the over-use of them. It’s a machine, it can only take so much… I think they just can’t be going 24/7.”

Public Safety stated, “We will continue to examine the safety of these devices as more consumer research becomes available.  We will provide an update when policy is implemented, but until that time, for the safety of all SCSU Huskies, hover boards will not be permitted on campus grounds or buildings, including residential locations.”

Students may be in luck, then, as the government is putting its foot down on manufacturers/sellers that do not comply.

The letter stated, “Should the staff encounter such products at import, we may seek detention and/or seizure.”

While the “self balancing scooters” may not actually hover like their nickname suggests, it’s apparent they’ve floated their way into the hot seat for both locally and nation-wide.

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