This year's hottest toy, the hoverboard, actually doesn't hover and actually might catch fire.
Popularized by the 1989 movie "Back to the Future Part II", Marty McFly zipped in and out scenes on a levitating skateboard where he nearly killed himself a handful of times.
Today's hoverboards, however, don't levitate at all. They still get by on two wheels, and at best, give the rider the sense of "hovering" above the ground.
Reports of deaths, injuries, and exploding hoverboards have banned them on New York City streets and British Airways planes, and the U.S. government has even commissioned an investigation about their safety.
However, there is no ban on buying hoverboards, and people will still bend the rules on riding them, so follow these three steps to keep from getting burned on this season's hottest new toy.
Step One: Buy Legit.
Hoverboards can cost as much as $2,000 and as little as under $300. Stay away from anything less than $300 because the old saying is true - you will get what you pay for.
Now that doesn't mean you need a $2,000 hoverboard to cross the street, however, but it will be made of better materials.
The cheaper hoverboards are naturally made of cheaper materials so the batteries and chargers that power them are more likely to break down and blow up. The best protection against such a flaming scenario is to keep an eye out for UL-certified hoverboards.
UL is a certification organization that is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to run safety tests on all kinds of devices. If the hoverboard's charger is UL-certified, it's much less likely to cause damage to the device's battery.
So far, popular name brand hoverboards include Skagway, Jetson Electric and Razer. These are priced at an average cost of about $499 and at least come with warranties.
Step Two: Charge Carefully.
Hoverboards are powered by the same lithium-ion batteries that power our smartphones, tablets and laptops. Unfortunately, hoverboard batteries are dumb. The hardware and software in our gadgets work together to prevent batteries from overcharging and potentially blowing up in our faces.
The chargers powering up hoverboards, on the other hand, could potentially damage the cells in the battery if they're defective or are left juicing up longer than necessary. Needless to say, never leave a hoverboard unattended while it's charging and unplug it when it's done.
Moreover, unlike our smartphones, hoverboards will get banged up during use. The batteries are generally placed inside the footrest of a hoverboard so they're getting stepped on, kicked and abused on every single ride. That too could damage the battery itself making them more prone to malfunction or explosion.
Step Three: Ride Safe.
Hoverboards are actually more than just a toy. They're a means of transportation. Just like a bicycle or a skateboard, hoverboarders need to gear up.
Since these things can reach speeds of up to 10mph, wearing a helmet is essential. Knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards are recommended. Also, because people fall over backwards on these things, some form of tail-bone protection would be a good idea.
Nonetheless, the best form of protection while riding a overboard is to first avoid situations where you'll actually need protection. Avoid, at all costs, going out for ride on a busy city street. In fact, it's illegal to ride hoverboards on public streets in New York City, Australia and the United Kingdom.
No doubt we'll see more hoverboards in our neighborhoods and malls now that we're well into the holiday season. If you're one of them, keep these steps in mind to riding safe and having fun.
Photo: Nicholas Rumas | Flickr