There is a stark difference between the “Back to the Future” universe and Baylor University residence halls. One allows hoverboards, and the other does not.
The university announced last month that the battery-powered, self-balancing transportation devices would be banned from residence halls after spring break, citing safety concerns. This past week was the first week of the ban.
Student life administrators made the decision.
“We made the decision to prohibit hoverboards first from residence halls because they have the highest density of students,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said. “If there was a fire with a hoverboard in a residence hall, that’s higher probability for an incident to affect a greater number of our students.”
Hoverboards are still allowed elsewhere, but Fogleman said the university is evaluating the devices on campus as a whole. Administrators emailed students a reminder of the new policy March 11.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed it received 52 reports of self-balancing scooter fires from consumers in 24 states between Dec. 1 and Feb. 17. The incidents resulted in more than $2 million in property damage, including the destruction of two homes and an automobile.
Hoverboards operate on two wheels on the ground, each one having a motor. Business junior Jackson Hornbeak said riders weave their bodies and will then move in that direction.
“It’s almost slight enough where you can think about it and your body will move,” Hornbeak said.
Fogleman said the school isn’t aware of any campus injuries or incidents caused by hoverboards.
More than 30 universities have banned or restricted hoverboards on their campuses, according to a January Associated Press report. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also is investigating companies that make and sell them to ensure safety.
“Colleges, universities and other institutions and organizations have been active in prohibiting the use of hoverboards on campus, and I want to commend the leaders of those institutions for putting safety first while our investigation pushes forward,” commission Chairman Elliott F. Kaye said in a statement.
The AP report said the devices are banned on New York City streets, and a California law requires riders to be at least 16 and wear a helmet in public.
Hornbeak said he lives off campus and never uses his to get to classes, but he said the rule makes sense. He is trying to sell his, simply because he figures he could use the money for something else. It is currently listed online for $250.
“I got mine from the manufacturer last summer before the explosion and fire cases,” Hornbeak said. “I’ve never had an issue with mine catching fire, but for those instances I can totally understand those not wanting them in residence halls.”
Fogleman said some students expressed disappointment at the policy but understood the reasoning behind it. Parents also have been supportive of the change.
Hornbeak said his hoverboard weighs about 25 pounds, so carrying it up stairs would be inconvenient.
In addition to potentially causing fires, hoverboards can lead to falls.
“Fall injuries can be serious and life-altering,” Kaye said. “Many people, including children, have ended up with fractures, contusions or head or brain injuries. Hospitals across the country are reporting spikes in children and adults being admitted after suffering serious falls.”
Hornbeak said he would often receive strange looks from people, and they also ask if they can try it, a small price to pay for the rush of the ride.
“I just got it because it looked fun,” Hornbeak said.