Hoverboards Unwelcomed at More Utah Universities

By and Michelle L. Price | January 26, 2016

Several Utah universities are joining colleges around the country in restricting hoverboards on campus as federal officials review dozens of fires tied to the self-balancing scooters.

At least two Utah schools, including Brigham Young University, bar riding them on campus, and four others don’t allow them in student housing, including the flagship University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The rules come as the two-wheeled, motorized scooters gain popularity on campus. Southern Utah University spokeswoman Ellen Treanor said she sees them every day.

“People are parking blocks away and jumping on their hoverboards to ride them in,” she said. The Cedar City-based institution has a temporary ban on them in on-campus housing, and riding them is restricted at some places on campus. Dixie State University has a similar policy and is also working to keep them out of other indoor spaces.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in early January that it’s investigating fires in 19 states tied to the motorized scooters.

hoverboardThe gadgets have been blamed for fires that damaged homes from New Jersey to California.

The commission announced Wednesday that it was expanding its investigation to look at how the design of the devices has led to falls and serious injuries such as fractures and brain injuries.

“The current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate, especially a first-time user,” Commission chairman Elliot Kaye said in a statement.

Nationwide, more than 30 colleges and universities have banned the devices. The potential fire danger comes from the lithium-ion batteries that power the hoverboards.

The devices also are prohibited on New York City streets, and a new law in California requires riders to be at least 16 and wear a helmet in public.

In Utah, some schools regulate the devices like skateboards. Both are barred from Brigham Young University’s Provo campus due to concerns about collisions or falls.

“We’re a pedestrian friendly campus,” said Todd Hollingshead, a spokesman for the school. “It’s a safety issue.”

Weber State University has a similar policy barring people from riding hoverboards or longboards on campus. The Ogden institution sent out notice in early January that students can’t take hoverboards inside campus buildings.

“We’ve been getting questions,” said spokeswoman Allison Hess, but only one student has been stopped on a hoverboard since they became popular.

Utah Valley University in Orem also treats them like skateboards, allowing their use outdoors but not indoors. They’re also allowed at safe speeds outdoors at Salt Lake Community College, similar to longboards or roller blades.

The Salt Lake City-based University of Utah allows them on campus sidewalks but keeps them out of students’ on-campus living spaces over fire fears.

Utah State University in Logan doesn’t have a hoverboard policy yet, but it’s looking into the fire hazard concerns and are considering banning them indoors, spokesman Tim Vitale said.

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