Students react to Hoverboard banBy Luci Willis | 01/28/2016 12:38pm
Anna Claire Ladner wheels around on her hoverboard, which is temporarily banned on campus. CW | Jonathan Daniels
These self-balancing boards, commonly called “hoverboards,” recently became the transportation of choice for many at Alabama. However, on Jan. 6, The University of Alabama issued several restrictions on hoverboard use and ownership in response to reports that some boards caught fire during use or while charging. Students who enjoyed the activity suddenly found it banned from campus.
“If [a hoverboard] seems a bit too mellow, like ‘white guy-ish,’ ‘sweater vest-ish,’ people who like a thrill might enjoy it,” said Josiah Graham, a senior majoring in biology. “Segways and things like that are a pretty stale, pretty boring concept, but once you add the element of fire, it makes it more of a thrill seeker thing. Riding it, knowing it could catch fire at any moment, makes it more interesting. I’m not much of a thrill seeker myself though.”
Brock Ferguson, a senior majoring in finance and economics, received his board as a gift. He said he mostly uses his at home. Ferguson said though he has not had personal experience with hoverboard fires and will not alter his use of the product, he thinks the ban is appropriate until the problem is resolved.
“I’m not too concerned about the safety issues,” Ferguson said. “I’m more likely to harm myself by falling off of it – although I would recommend that people stay close to their boards while charging it in case it does catch fire.”
Many owners received theirs as a gift over the Christmas break. Others just got lucky, like Graham, who won his hoverboard in a drawing but said he would not have purchased one on his own.
Graham said while he is being more careful with his hoverboard, he is not troubled by the incidents cited in the Consumer Product Safety Commission report.
“I keep my eye on it, watch out for it to catch fire, and I don’t charge it next to my stuff,” Graham said. “But honestly, it isn’t a big deal to me. I got it for free, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I lost it.”
The boards initially seemed harmless. However, reports of boards catching fire while charging or in use came out at the end of last year.
“We are actively investigating hoverboard-related fires across the country ... to find out why certain hoverboards caught fire,” said Elliot F. Kaye, a chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in its official statement regarding hoverboard safety. “Every consumer who is riding a hoverboard ... or who is thinking about buying one deserves to know if there is a safety defect.”
The University of Alabama issued several campus-wide restrictions on hoverboard use and ownership in response: Hoverboards cannot be stored in University housing or residential facilities, including Greek houses; users cannot charge their board in any UA-owned or UA-leased facility or building; and if a student rides a board on campus, they must follow all traffic and pedestrian laws.
“The primary concern with the hoverboards is the risk for fire, which seems to occur when batteries are overheated due to charging,” said Dr. Steven Hood, the associate vice president for Student Affairs at The University of Alabama. “While there are other documented accidents with hoverboards, the risk for fire is our greatest concern. I am not aware of any specific incidents with students and hoverboards on campus. Much of our concerns stem from reports that have surfaced during the winter break from around the country, including the banning of the devices from most (if not all) major airlines.”
Even with the restrictions in place, there is still hope for all hoverboard-loving students at the Capstone. Students are free to ride their boards anywhere on campus; only hoverboard charging and storage are banned, and even these restrictions will be lifted as researchers make these devices safer.
“This is a temporary ban on hoverboards,” Hood said. “We will review any product updates regarding hoverboards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that may impact our decision. It is our understanding that the U.S. CPSC is currently testing devices now, and we welcome any new information that may aid in our decision about hoverboards as we move forward.”