Last Thursday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission took the unprecented step of sending a letter to all hoverboard manufacturers, importers and retailing telling them that all hoverboards are potentially unsafe. One major manufacturer, Swagway, has also told people who own its hoverboards to quit using them until they are deemed safe.
This is a shocking turn of events. Two months ago, hoverboards were among the most popular Christmas gifts, and now the entire industry is in a bit of turmoil.
There were a couple of things that were very interesting about this to me. First, in the letter, the CPSC declares that no manufacturer in the industry meets the CPSC’s safety standards. This is amazing. I can’t think of another instance off the top of my head where the government has declared an entire industry unsafe.
Second, the reason provided by the CPSC was also interesting. The CPSC declared hoverboards unsafe because of their risk of fires caused by the batteries. This is certainly a known risk, but in my mind, not the greatest risk.
For me, the most significant risk from hoverboards is the risk of falls and related injuries. There have been hundreds of reports of people falling off of their hoverboards and incurring significant injuries, including numerous brain injuries and fractures of various bones. Those types of injuries have the potential to be permanently life-altering.
I don’t know how this will turn out. At some point, after more testing is done, perhaps the government will declare that some hoverboards are safe. But we’re clearly not at that point yet.