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Over the holiday season, and during summer, hoverboards are some of the most utilized sporting accessories. It is because this is one of the most liked outdoor activities. You will find lots of people enjoying their time on the roads, city pavements, walkways, and every other space they find. However, as you enjoy your time, it is important to understand that safety is something that you cannot take lightly. According to the Consumer Safety Commission, serious injuries can occur due to lack of precautionary measures. If you are planning to hit the road with your hoverboards, you need to understand some of the tricks and hacks that will keep you safe throughout the sessions. Here are some hoverboard safety tips for you.
What exactly is a hoverboard?
The term ‘hoverboard’ was first mentioned in the film ‘Back to the future’ in 1985. It was represented as an artificially levitating transportation board that would float a few feet above the ground. The modern iteration of the hoverboard, however, is a misnomer. The actual device being discussed is actually called the ‘self-balancing scooter’ which uses wheels to “float” itself. A self-balancing scooter consists of a lateral arrangement of two wheels connected by a board, on which the rider stands, and steers or navigates. The acceleration, deceleration and turning are controlled by two pressure sensitive pads underneath the rider’s feet. In this article, the terms hoverboard and self-balancing scooter will be used interchangeably.
The hoverboard can be broadly described as a self-balancing scooter which is powered by li-ion battery packs, which pose a potential safety hazard. There have been instances of faulty batteries, which have exploded, caught fire or short circuited. Case of spontaneous combustion during charging have led to extensive damage to homes as well.
The most obvious cause of harm originating from this device is the extremely high danger of falling over or colliding into objects, which is a frequent occurrence for inexperienced or amatuer riders. The vehicle can reach speeds of up to 10 mph (16 km/h), so significant damage could be inflicted in case of a fall at high speeds. As is the case with all modes of transportation, traffic accidents are also likely when using the hoverboard, so using proper safety equipment, such as a helmet, knee-pads and gloves is of paramount importance. According to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, hoverboard-related combustions caused more than $2 million in property damages around the US.
WHY DO HOVERBOARDS EXPLODE?
The most common issue with hoverboards seems to lie with the batteries used in hoverboards. The batteries used are the lithium ion batteries, which are often used in cell phones and laptops as well. However, the liquid contained inside these batteries is highly flammable, which poses a threat. Hoverboards that are currently available on the market have been produced in various nameless Chinese factories and, since these factories often do not adhere to any international safety standards pertaining to such devices, these hoverboards can become potentially dangerous.
Another reason why these batteries are causing hoverboards to be dangerous and highly flammable is the fact that these batteries have a tendency to explode if they are bumped around a lot. Any individual, unless extremely skilled at hoverboarding, is likely to bash into walls and other objects. Because driving thee devices takes a significant amount of practice, amateurs often bump these devices around, increasing the risk of such an accident.
Most fires have been reported to occur while these hoverboards are charging. This is specifically because Lithium ion batteries do not accept overcharging, while people may tend to overcharge them. Chargers for hoverboards include a feature of a cut-off mechanism that detects when the battery have been fully charged and then automatically stops the charging, in order to prevent any damage to the batteries or fire. Unfortunately, defects in the cut-off mechanism are leading to batteries getting overcharged and catching fire. These defects usually occur because these products are usually not tested or inspected fully, to adhere to international standard, and thus can cause damages.
HOW TO PREVENT HOVERBOARD FIRES?
If you already have a hoverboard, you must take a few precautionary measures to try to prevent it from catching fire. According to CPSC, it is wise to allow the toy an hour to cool down after use before plugging it in for charging. It takes approximately two hours to charge fully. It is best not to leave the toy unattended while it’s charging. Monitor the charging at least while charging the smart balance wheel for the first time. You should never charge the hoverboard overnight or longer than is stated in the manual. It is best to keep the toy away from flammable objects and to unplug its charger from the board as well as the outlet as soon as it’s fully charged.
If you wish to invest in a good quality charger, it is a good idea to opt for the external universal charger. This will not prevent the hoverboard catching fire due to damage to its battery but it would help to avoid destructive fires, the kind that result from overcharging.
Another important precautionary measure is to minimize the impact of the toy in order to try to reduce the chances of the battery getting damaged. It is best to avoid riding it near hard or rough surfaces such as rocks or walls. It is important to be careful while carrying the hoverboard as dropping it could lead to its battery getting damaged as well. Dropping it or bumping into hard surfaces or sharp objects damage the battery pack’s separator sheets, which in turn causes the fire. Though fires usually result from overcharging and not by colliding into something or dropping your hoverboard but if it’s best to be careful especially if the board’s construction does not seem that solid.
HOVERBOARD SAFETY CERTIFICATION: THE UL2272
For several months, it looked like self-balancing scooters were doomed to be a one-time fad, like so many other products. Places like Amazon were telling people to “throw their hoverboards away.” Retailers removed them from their shelves. Left and right you began to see new articles about the latest place to ban them from being used.
Many assumed that the hoverboard fad was over…
Soon after the CPSC published the safety advisory recommending that people not purchase hoverboards, it released a set of safety standards for hoverboards. UL2272 is the new standard for Self Balancing Scooters Electrical Systems. Some of the things covered by these standards include:
- The construction:
- Metallic and non-metallic parts
- Insulation and Protective circuits
- Electrical tests
- Short Circuit test
- Temperature test
- Overcharge test
- Mechanical tests
- Vibration tests
- Shock tests
- Crush tests
- Overload tests
- Environmental tests
- Water exposure tests
- Thermal cycling tests
This is just a short list of some of the items in the standards, for a complete overview of the testing, see the UL Hoverboard page. Prior to these standards being released, anyone could throw together a piece of plastic for you to stand on, attach a couple of wheels, throw in motor and a battery, and then try to sell it as the greatest hoverboard in the world. And many people did exactly that.
Hoverboard safety tips
BUY AN AUTHENTIC AND SAFE HOVERBOARD
Take the necessary time to determine the hoverboard’s authenticity – It can be extremely hard to determine a genuine hoverboard from a fake one. Fake products often look identical to unsuspecting buyers. (It’s even worse with hoverboards since so many brands are visually identical, but component-wise entirely different models.)
You want to avoid fake hoverboards because lower quality self-balancing scooters usually have batteries that are also lower quality. The primary cause of self-balancing scooter fires were faulty batteries that failed and experienced rapid discharge.
Unless you take the time to open a hoverboards case, you’ll never be positive that you’ve gotten a quality battery. If the vendor doesn’t mention the brand, chances are it’s inferior. Samsung and LG are both considered excellent batteries and have had very few failures.
So how do you get the best hoverboard with a battery that’s safe?
You want to buy your hoverboard from reputable brands and marketplaces. While Fred the Fence may be able to get you a “sweet deal” for a hoverboard, he’s trying to score big bucks off of you.
Some of the most notable safe hoverboard brands are Swagtron, the Powerboard, Razor Hovertrax, StreetSaw, and Jetson to name but a few. If you make your purchase from giant online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, make sure that the product is sold directly by its maker and not a 3rd party seller.
FOLLOW THE HOVERBOARD MANUFACTURER’S RECOMMENDED INSTRUCTIONS.
It may not seem all that earth shattering of a revelation, but the manufacturer’s instructions are there to help you to use their product safely. For kids, this is especially important because they often lack the experience to know that they could become severely injured in an accident.
One of the critical things to supervise with your children and hoverboards is recharging and storing the hoverboard. It’s during the charge cycle that a majority of the battery malfunctions occur. Make sure to keep the hoverboard away from any flammable materials.
Also when charging your hoverboard, do so immediately after using is and for only a few hours at a time.
DO NOT leave it to charge for more than 4 hours. After a lithium-ion battery is fully charged, there is a slightly higher likelihood of an accident occurring. Always use the charger that you received when you bought your hoverboard. Other chargers may seem identical, but there’s no guarantee, and they might just be different enough to cause an accident.
USE PROPER HOVERBOARD SAFETY GEAR
Use the proper safety gear when riding a hoverboard. Have you seen the videos from last Christmas when hoverboards were the newest craze, and everybody was desperate to own one? Did you also see the hoverboard videos where people fell off of the not-so-self-balancing scooter and required a trip to the Emergency Room? There were hundreds of hoverboard accident videos on YouTube to watch and be glad that it wasn’t happening to you.
If only they had taken the time to learn how to ride a hoverboard…
Granted most of the accident victims were products of their unpreparedness blended with beginner hoverboard-riding skills; you can lose your balance in a second. Save a trip to the ER, and use the proper personal protective gear for riding hoverboards. At a minimum, you should have a decent helmet, elbow pads, and kneepads. You may also want to consider wearing wrist guards and booty pads. Older riders should watch out since they are more likely to hurt their wrists trying to stop yourself from falling.
At a minimum, you should have a decent helmet, elbow pads, and kneepads. You may also want to consider wearing wrist guards and booty pads. Older riders should watch out since they are more likely to injure themselves when attempting to stop a fall than children or teenagers. The last thing you want is to break a bone or injure yourself in some other manner.
DON’T ABUSE YOUR HOVERBOARD
Most hoverboards like long walks to watch the sunset, followed by ice cream and a good movie.
Just seeing if you were awake.
Like any piece of equipment, if you take care of it, it will take care of you, and hoverboards are no exception. Hold on a second, actually; hoverboards are an exception. Remember earlier where I mentioned that the batteries were one of the biggest causes of hoverboard fires? There were several cases where superficial damage to the hoverboard’s outer case caused fires. What wasn’t apparent, was that the damage to the case had also damaged the battery. At some point, the damage caused the chemicals inside the battery to become exposed to oxygen, starting a fire.
Remember earlier where I mentioned that the batteries were one of the biggest causes of hoverboard fires? There were several cases where what appeared to be superficial damage to the hoverboard’s outer case, was actually much more substantial and was believed fo be the cause of several fires. At some point, the battery was damaged, causing chemicals inside the battery to become exposed to oxygen, starting a fire.
In this video, a guy takes a knife and stabs it into the battery. While the battery he is using is a cell phone battery, it’s the same type of battery as the one inside a hoverboard. Only a hoverboard has 18 cells in its battery. A single battery failing catches the remaining cells on fire. When that happens it almost sounds like firecrackers exploding, only the shooting flames are much more vigorous and have caught multiple homes on fire.
Imagine a fire eighteen times bigger than the one in the video.
NEVER CHARGE A HOVERBOARD OVERNIGHT
We have become accustomed to charging our electronic devices overnight while we sleep. Why not? It works out awesome that way. We both get recharged.
Don’t do this with your hoverboard.
Generally, most of these products usually require about 2 to 4 hours for their batteries to be fully charged. As it nears a full charge, the battery reduces the amount of energy it absorbs to a trickle. It stays at a nearly full charge until it’s almost full when it suddenly begins absorbing lots of energy again. Reaching the critical threshold, the battery overcharges. It attempts to shed the excess energy it consumed and returned to its full state.
Want to guess how it reduces its energy level?
Did you say rapid discharge?
Make sure your child understands the need to remove the hoverboard from the charger after a few hours. The CPSC also recommends that you recharge your hoverboard immediately after use. Doing so will make it more stable when it’s not in use.
Also, try to be aware of the hoverboard’s surroundings when charging. You don’t want to have it next to anything flammable.
CALIBRATE YOUR HOVERBOARD
Calibrate your hoverboard every two or three uses. Calibration only takes a second, and it will make your hoverboard ride smoother and steadier. It should be the first step anytime your hoverboard is performing poorly.
It can also help stop the hoverboard shaking uncontrollably, or where one side turns, but the other doesn’t, or if the LEDs on your hoverboard blink all the time.
All you need is a level surface and powering it on and off, and you’ll be ready to go again in no time. Just follow this link if you’d like to learn more about calibration.
If your child is under 50 lbs. hoverboards may not work properly for them. Most hoverboards are designed to work for riders between 50-220lbs. They may not weigh enough to control it properly.
GET ON/OFF THE HOVERBOARD PROPERLY
Get on and off your hoverboard in the proper way. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but you want to step forward onto your hoverboard when mounting it.
Place one foot in the middle of it and then assume as wide a stance as you can on the foot pads. You want your feet to be centered front-to-back with equal amounts of toe and heel hanging off.
When it is time to get off your hoverboards, don’t dismount by stepping forward. You’ll shift your weight and instead of stepping off, you’ll cause your hoverboard to propel itself forward, right underneath where you’re trying to step.
Instead, step off the hoverboard backwards, like you were stepping down from a ladder or stepstool. This will prevent any hoverboard accidents from happening.
CHOOSE WHERE TO RIDE
Everyone knows that there are no designated places where you can use a hoverboard. You can try them at the parking, neighborhoods, or any other place where you can use skateboards and ride a bike. Some cities have laws that regulate where you can go riding. For instance, in New York City, and salt lake city, using these items on busy streets has been banned. However, many people can still be spotted on the sidewalks and even on major streets even with the ban in place.
The main reason why you should be careful when choosing where to ride is because some locations pose a higher risk than others. For instance, if you are sliding through places with heavy motor vehicle traffic, you need to consider the risk of getting hit by a car, or crashing into stationary objects. Just like when riding a self balancing scooter, you could injure yourself by ramming into a tree, a wall, a fence, or any other object. Professionals know how to avoid such objects and therefore, they may be after when enjoying their time at such locations. For learners and amateurs, it is better to choose a location that requires less skills to avoid these dangerous objects.
BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD, PRACTICE
You may be excited to hit the sidewalks and try out your new skateboards. However, studies have shown that it is not a good idea to do that even before you understand the safety standards, and get the right safety gear. If you are new to this sport, the best thing you can do is to start by learning the basics. You can not learn the basics by going straight to the most dangerous locations. Instead of that, find some space at home and learn to balance, move, turn, and every other task that is related to it. As time goes by, you will notice that you have begun mastering the tricks and so, you will be much safer when you get out.
The body parts that do not go well with concrete surfaces when using a hoverboard include the head, elbows, and knees. This is the reason you need to wear the right protective safety gear before you head out. However, in case you are not in a position to wear such gear, you have to stay within your practice sessions until you are accomplished enough to go out. Those skillful and experienced people you see on the streets did not start where they are. They had to grow gradually in the sport and that is the reason they have stayed away from injuries.
WHAT TO DO WHEN RIDING AT NIGHT
Although a hoverboard has lights, they are not as visible as those of a vehicle or motor bike. These lights are low and dim. Sometimes, it might be difficult for someone to notice them unless they are keenly watching. This is the reason you should be more cautious when riding at night. Just because you have switched the lights on, and you can see where you are going does not mean that you are completely safe. Experts often ask people to wear whites if they have to ride on their hoverboards at night.
In addition to that, you should wear a helmet, and light up shoes. The reason you need such shoes is that they have small lithium ion batteries to power them throughout the ride. These batteries are safer than any other option that you are likely to find out there because they similar to the ones found on mobile phones and computers. After charging the battery, it not only lights up the shoe but it also illuminates the sole which keeps flashing and changing colors to attract more attention than those shoes that only use one color.
DESIST FROM CHARGING HOVERBOARDS OVERNIGHT
You may be so eager to use your hoverboards on Saturday and so, you think that charging them throughout on a Friday night is the best way to ensure that you have enough energy. However, experts have pointed out that this is not a good idea. One thing that you need to know is that if they charge under such conditions, it only means that nobody is monitoring the process. Since most of them require just four hours to fully charge, there is likely to be a fire outbreak if you leave them plugged in for long. The National Fire Protection Association has confirmed that many fire accidents have been caused by this.
To avoid fire and explosions, it is important to ensure that the hoverboards only charge during the time when you can adequately monitor them. Some people also prefer to charge these items even before the current charge is exhausted just to ensure that there is enough energy for the next use. It is the same thing that they do with their mobile phones and computers.
Which Hoverboards are safe?
Apart from taking all these safety precautions, you should also ensure that you buy the right hoverboards.
When looking to purchase a hoverboard, it is ideal that you purchase it from a retail shop you know and fully trust. The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has advised against purchasing hoverboards from unknown websites, online stores or mall Kiosks as none of these seem to know much about the product itself and mere retailers of the product. When buying the hoverboard, think if you’ll be able to get in contact with the seller if a problem was to occur with the board. If you believe that the seller won’t be available or difficult to get in touch with, it is better not to buy from them. In cases where you feel the retailer seems a bit sketchy, it’s better to trust your gut and move on to a different retailer.
While purchasing this device, be sure to check for the certification labels present on the packaging. If ETL or UL is emblem on the package, product or on the user’s manual, it is an indication of the fact that the product has been inspected thoroughly by an independent 3rd party or laboratory and has passed the safety test. However, there are a few sketchy manufacturers who try to get a fake emblem. These fakes sometimes produce emblems that do not actually exist, or may be representation of an internal, self-monitored inspection which is usually biased. This is rare as UL is currently working closely with interpol, US Customs and others in order to try to try to catch these fakes before they reach the consumers.
It is essential for the consumers to keep in mind that the appearance of the certification label or an emblem does not mean that the product completely rules out counterfeits, and is perfectly safe with zero risk of malfunction, but the absence of these certification labels indicates that the manufacturer is not concerned with the safety of the consumer.
Target and Amazon have started selling hoverboards that have the certification for the charger and the batteries but this does not mean that the entire hoverboard is also under certification. In fact, up till now there has not been a single entire product that has been certified by UI. It was also revealed that certain factories say they make use of Samsung batteries but these batteries actually are fake.
No hoverboard is completely safe. Like every electronic device, these come with a risk as well. However, the risk of owning and operating these hoverboards is much higher than other electronic devices. People need to take into these risks before making their decision of purchasing a hoverboard.
No technology is free from risk and same is the case with Hoverboards. However, we see a dramatic difference in the Hoverboards that were first introduced in 2015 and the ones that are being introduced this year. If you were to look back over this article, it seems like hoverboard accidents and injuries are just waiting to happen. That’s not the case at all. Follow the steps I mentioned above, and both you and your child will be able to enjoy hoverboards accident-free for a long time.
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