SANTA CRUZ — A national consumer safety watchdog panel issued a public warning this week urging users to immediately stop using a Santa Cruz-produced electric skateboard.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “evaluated the Onewheel products and found that they can cause the rider to be ejected from the product, which can result in serious injury or death to the rider,” the regulatory agency wrote in a news statement distributed Wednesday.
“There have been at least four reported deaths between 2019 and 2021 and multiple reports of serious injuries after the product failed to balance the rider or suddenly stopped while in motion,” the commission’s statement reads. “The reported deaths resulted from head trauma. Reported injuries include traumatic brain injury, concussion, paralysis, upper-body fractures, lower-body fractures, and ligament damage.”
In response, Onewheel manufacturer Future Motion Inc. issued a response describing the commission’s warning as containing “unjustified and alarmist statements.” The company sees no reason for users to stop using its Onewheel products, according to its statement.
“Onewheel electric skateboards are safe when operated following common-sense safe riding practices that are common to any board sport,” Future Motion wrote.
While empowered to issue mandatory recalls and prohibit product sales, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had not made such an order for the Onewheel, to date.
The agency, however, characterized talks with Future Motion as ending with a company that “refused to agree to an acceptable recall of the product.” The commission, according to its news release, intends to continue pursuing a Onewheel recall for consumers. Future Motion fired back in its own statement that, “rather than collaborate on how to further improve safety, the CPSC has unfortunately issued a sensational message about a product that brings joy and exhilaration to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Hundreds of users posted supportive comments and likes to Onewheel’s Facebook page Wednesday after the company publicized a response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s warning. The social media post began with the appeal, “Dear CPSC, Let us ride” and attached photographs of a six-page letter further responding to the commission.
Onewheel founder Kyle Doerksen told the Sentinel on Thursday that Future Motion is collaborating with the commission’s technical staff, “exploring and evaluating a variety of ways to enhance Onewheel safety.” Overall, the product, he said, is safe to operate.
The company also goes “to great lengths to encourage riders to educate themselves on safety and the overwhelming majority of riders use the board safely, ride within their abilities, respect the board’s safety systems, follow local laws, and wear a helmet and other safety gear,” according to Future Motion’s statement.
“Onewheel riders are adults who know that there are inherent risks in riding an electric skateboard, just as there are in other board sports like snowboarding, or with riding an e-bike, electric scooter, ATV, or motorcycle,” the company wrote.
Onewheel products have become the target of several recent civil lawsuits, including a class-action suit filed in September, generally alleging damages due to users whose boards reportedly halted and did a “nosedive” unexpectedly, throwing the riders and causing resulting injuries. According to its website, Future Motion already is addressing a different Onewheel product safety issue highlighted by the same Consumer Product Safety Commission. The company has undertaken a voluntary recall of front footpads for the Onewheel GT after reports that the GT was continuing to operate, informally dubbed as “ghosting,” after the rider had dismounted.
The Onewheel, through various upgrades, has been sold since 2014, with current models priced from $1,050 to $2,200.
The commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products, according to its website. Among recent similar consumer product warnings recently issued by the commission were for My Bouncer Little Castle for strangulation and entrapment concerns and AIQRZBI and IGIA handheld hair dryer brushes, due to an electrocution hazard.
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