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Pedestrian Accidents: Wheelchair Users More Likely to Die in Car Crashes

By Evan L. Kaine

In the past year, we have touched on the importance of pedestrian safety. It seems that collisions involving pedestrians have become commonplace—not only in Georgia, but throughout the United States. As a law firm, we have assisted many individuals and families whose loved ones were involved in pedestrian accidents, as well as hit and run accidents. Therefore, the results of a new study analyzing the rate at which physically impaired pedestrians are injured or killed on our roadways should come as no surprise.

As we have noted, many organizations have had a hard time collecting concrete data regarding pedestrian accidents alone, so narrowing the scope to those individuals with physical impairments seemed like an even greater challenge. However, CBS News released the results of a study published by the online journal BMJ Open that found individuals in wheelchairs were three (3) times more likely to die in road traffic collisions than the rest of the population. The traffic collisions were more likely to happen at intersections and men were five (5) times more likely to be killed than women in these accidents.

As we mentioned prior, pedestrian accidents are on the rise as 5,000 pedestrians are killed and 76,000 are injured each year. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Transportation has not been able to zero-in on who is at most risk.

The author of the study, Dr. John Kraemer, said there was little data on non-fatal wheelchair-pedestrian accidents and there was practically no information regarding fatal injuries of those in wheelchair accidents.

So, how was this study done?

Kraemer and his team evaluated countless police reports of traffic collisions throughout the United States roadways and news stories regarding car crash fatalities. They then estimated how many wheelchair users were victims of pedestrian collisions.

Their findings were alarming to say the least.

They estimated that 528 wheelchair users were killed in road traffic collisions in the United States between 2006 and 2012. This number means that a pedestrian wheelchair user’s risk of death is about 36% higher than any other pedestrian.

Sadly, the study went on to say that most of these accidents involving those in wheelchairs could have been avoided if crosswalks or regulated areas were in effect.

Dr. Kraemer is quoted saying, “A high proportion of crashes occurred at locations without traffic controls or crosswalks.” When there is poor pedestrian infrastructure or it’s poorly adapted to people with mobility impairments, people who use wheelchairs often are forced to use the streets, or are otherwise exposed to greater risk. It also may be telling that, in three-quarters of crashes, there was no evidence that the driver sought to avoid the crash.

Lastly, the study found that either drivers failed to stop or yield to wheelchair users and that 15% of the time the wheelchair users were not visible.

As drivers, we need to be extremely cautious of those walking, riding bikes or utilizing crosswalks in other ways. However, it is even more important that we notice other types of pedestrians who may need extra time utilizing these crosswalks or unmarked areas. This type of information is helpful to both new and old drivers as you never know who you may see as a pedestrian.

If you have more questions or would like more information about this article, contact Kaine Law.


Published December 15, 2015


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