Doctors are warning people not to "drink and ride", with new figures revealing booze to be a factor in more than a quarter of e-scooter injuries dealt with by Auckland's main emergency department.

Amid an explosion in popularity, e-scooters have been involved in 770 injuries in less than a year – costing Auckland's health system more than $1m.

A new study showed Auckland City Hospital's ED had treated a third of those injured riders between last October and April – of which a third had to be admitted to a ward.

Around 20 per cent of people needed an operation – and 42 per cent required follow-up specialist care.

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In all, these injuries used up more than 5,500 bed hours and cost Auckland City Hospital alone at least $608,843.

"Including admission, follow-up care and radiological imaging, these figures show the extent that Auckland City Hospital is bearing the brunt of increased costs due to e-scooter injuries," said the study's lead author, Associate Professor Colleen Bergin.

When the costs across the whole region were taken into account – ranging from ACC claims to GP visits over the seven-month period – the figure totalled $1,303,155.

Bergin, of the University of Auckland's School of Medical Science, and colleagues also took a closer look at trends in the data.

Males made up 56 per cent of the injuries, and while the most common injuries were lacerations, strains, sprains and bruises, about five per cent of cases involved concussion or brain injury.

Alcohol was thought to be a factor in 59 out of 220 cases at Auckland Hospital's ED.
Data from the hospital showed the large majority of injuries could be put down to a loss of balance from riding at high speeds – and a small proportion had come as a result of riders slamming into vehicles or pedestrians.

One injured pedestrian, who was instead treated at a GP clinic, likened being hit by an e-scooter to being "hit by a car".

St Heliers woman Sue Crang told the Herald soon after she was struck from behind while walking along Tamaki Dr last year that the pain was so intense she thought she'd broken her leg.

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St Heliers woman Sue Crang was struck from behind by an e-scooter rider while walking along Auckland's Tamaki Dr last year with husband Tony. Photo / NZ Herald
St Heliers woman Sue Crang was struck from behind by an e-scooter rider while walking along Auckland's Tamaki Dr last year with husband Tony. Photo / NZ Herald

E-scooters were capable of going 27km/h on flat surfaces, though they have recently been programmed to go no faster than 15km/h in central Auckland suburbs as part of a safety agreement with Auckland Council.

Overall, since the introduction of e-scooters up until April this year, the study estimated 60 injuries per 100,000 trips, co-author Dr Mark Bekhit said.

"Based on the approximate number of e-scooters in the Auckland region, we estimate that healthcare costs per e-scooter is likely to be at least a factor of 10 higher than the current licensing fee per e-scooter."

The data in the study came from Auckland District Health Board and ACC.

Only medical or claims records that specifically mentioned some version of the term "electric scooter" were included, with more general terms such as "scooter" or "moped" excluded.

Emergency Medicine specialist Dr James Le Fevre said a clear message from the study was "don't drink and ride".

"With 26.8 per cent of injured e-scooter riders in this study thought to have consumed alcohol, a motorised narrow platform on wheels, no helmet, and alcohol is a dangerous combination."

Another study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in August, found how e-scooters appeared to pose an increased risk compared to other wheeled vehicles; likely due in part to the speeds possible and their "inherent instability".

At the time, Lime NZ said the company encouraged safe riding through education, design and the speed limits agreed on with the council.

The council had no powers to limit speeds or make users wear helmets, but it introduced more stringent safety requirements in May - including the low speed zones.

ACC data has shown that claims for e-scooter crashes were still dwarfed by scooter, motorbike and car crashes.

But one thing which stood out for e-scooter victims in the study was the severity of injuries.