Consumer and safety agencies are investigating hoverboard-related fires and injuries, and more than 60 airlines have banned the devices on flights because of potentially combustible batteries.
So it's not all that surprising that at least four Middle Georgia institutions are among a growing number of colleges and universities imposing restrictions or total bans on hoverboards because of safety concerns.
Fort Valley State University told its on-campus students to leave the devices at home before returning for the spring semester, and Mercer University restricted the hoverboards and similar devices from dormitories, Greek residences and university apartments. Meanwhile, Middle Georgia State University and Georgia College put campus-wide bans in place.
"Just know this has been a proactive measure on behalf of the institution, and these things created a safety hazard," said Wallace Keese, FVSU's dean of students.
"We're not trying to restrict recreational devices. But at this point, based on what we've seen through all reports -- consumer safety, consumer reports -- we don't want that to be a hazard to our students on campus," he said.
Most policies include a clause that the restrictions may be revisited after more information about the device's safety becomes available. But Keese said he expects that most colleges and universities, including FVSU, will move to total bans if they haven't already.
Tyler Penland, a commercial design major at FVSU, applauded the policy as a way to protect people's safety.
"I recall many times the hoverboards have been in my way in the hallways, on the elevators, taking up space, distracting the classroom," Penland said. "So overall, I feel that getting rid of them is one of the best decisions that has ever been made."
Eric Williams, a FVSU senior majoring in English, said he has heard about the fire hazards but doesn't think hoverboards are the real problem.
"I think that's like other people just messing up with the product ... or they're buying faulty products," he said.
Williams, who doesn't own a hoverboard, said he thinks students should be allowed to use them on campus.
"They paid money for it, so they should be able to ride on campus with it, and then, it's easier for them to get around," he said.
A BAN IS 'FOR OUR BEST INTEREST'
The University System of Georgia does not have a policy on hoverboards. That's being left up to each individual college.
"Institutions are handling this directly on an institution-by-institution basis," University System spokeswoman Sonja A. Roberts said in an email.
Shawn Douglas, campus police chief at Middle Georgia State, said the university was already looking at a policy to deal with hoverboards before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced safety concerns in mid-December.
Two complaints had been lodged about the hoverboards on campus. One student complained that a hoverboard operator lost control inside a building and "fell up against him," Douglas said. And another student voiced concern about a hoverboard operator who nearly lost control on a stairwell and could have fallen down the stairs.
Middle Georgia State was considering a policy similar to one for skateboards, which are permitted on campus as long as they're operated properly outdoors, Douglas said. The policy prohibits indoor use.
"That's kind of where we had to come to terms with the fire issue," Douglas said. "The majority of the people that we saw using them lived on campus.
"So in the evening, they were storing the hoverboards in the residence halls. We had received the safety warnings about storing them in residences, and you've seen the stories of them catching on fire in hotels and so forth. ... It would just be an enforcement nightmare to determine who's a resident (and) who's not a resident when you see a hoverboard going down the sidewalk."
Mercer's hoverboard policy states that "residents are prohibited to use, store, or possess hoverboards, self-propelled scooters, and similar devices in the Mercer University's residence halls, Greek houses and apartments due to the lack of safety standards that have not been developed and implemented by manufacturers. There have been concerns about the batteries in these devices which have caused fires when charging."
"At this point, it's not a university-wide ban," said Kyle Sears, Mercer's director of media relations.
On the FVSU campus last week, students at the Student Amenities Center expressed their thoughts about the policy. None owned a hoverboard.
Jazmine Lester, a freshman majoring in psychology, said the hoverboards should be allowed, although she's heard that there are dangers associated with them.
"People shouldn't be, you know, forced not to have them on campus," Lester said. "There's a convenience. ... It's a big campus. You should be able to use your hoverboard. And they cost a lot, so ... why not be able to use them?"
Tima Robinson, a junior studying infantile child development, said she heard about the batteries exploding when they were being charged.
"I think it's just for our best interest," Robinson said. "I don't think they're just trying to be jerks, because you can still use them off campus. But for everybody's safety, I think it's OK to do."
Alexis Spires-Neff, a FVSU softball player, said she doesn't think her coach would let her have a hoverboard because of the risk of injury. She said she cannot even play basketball because of the possibility she could be hurt.
"I would bust my butt on one of those things," Spires-Neff said.
Staff photographer Woody Marshall contributed to this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559, or find her on Twitter@becpurser.