Hoverboards: Unsafe At Any Height

By Ana-Marija Dolaskie — Dec 11, 2015
The hoverboard, made popular in "Back to the Future II," was a futuristic twist on the skateboard used by protagonist Marty McFly in the first film. Today, we have a two-wheeled electrical scooter that rolls over concrete oh, which also occasionally catches fire. We advise you steer clear of this so-called "hot" Christmas gift.

The hoverboard was made popular in the movie "Back to the Future II," and it was a futuristic twist on the skateboard protagonist Marty McFly used in the first film. In the sequel, the world of 2015 had this levitating skateboard -- but in the real 2015 it is just a brand-name for a two-wheeled electrical scooter that rolls over concrete.

Oh, and it occasionally catches fire. Talk about the hottest gift of the season.

A series of reports from across the United States and overseas has prompted the the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to issue a warning regarding the safety of these gliding vehicles, stating that not only can users be injured from falls, but also that the electrical scooters may overheat and burn while in use, or charging.

For example, last week in New York, the Chappaqua Fire Department released the photos of a hoverboard that ignited while charging, causing "considerable damage" to the home.

Then there's this video of a hoverboard bursting into flames in a mall in Washington State, forcing the commercial building to evacuate. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Adding fuel to the fire, a number of airline carriers, including British Airways, are now starting to ban the scooters, as experts suggest they pose a fire hazard onboard flights. Not to mention the hands-free Segways (in the photo above, a Swagway) are powered by lithium batteries which are already a concern for airlines.

Where is Ralph Nader when you need him? The renegade consumer advocate made a whole career out of warning people about the dangers of the Corvair, the snazzy automobile. Do we have to wait until the modern-day equivalent of Ernie Kovacks is killed on one of these hoverboards?

So far this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recorded close to 30 hoverboard-related injuries, including fractures, sprains, concussions and arm injuries. Experts warn users can sustain serious head and spinal injury from falls, given that the scooters are hands-free and rely solely on a person's shift in weight to make turns or slow down. YouTube has a video compilation of its own, with the most painful or "hilarious" injuries at least to the person videotaping.

Perhaps most disappointing of all is that the real-life versions bear no resemblance to the hoverboards we were excited about in "Back to the Future." (We also didn't get retractable clothing or 1980s-themed restaurants.) Those other two are unlikely but there is no reason technology has fallen short on levitating glory.

Doc Brown didn't see this coming, eh?

Customers wishing to add these to their Christmas shopping lists should act fast and by that we mean not at all. Some companies like Overstock.com have already discontinued the sale of the scooters, amid safety concerns. In a release, company officials said customers who have purchased hoverboards have been offered the option to return theirs for a full refund.

Still want to buy one? Here's a video of a dude giving advice on how to buy a hoverboard that doesn't catch on fire. We hope you save the receipt, just in case.