Wheelchair Users Face Much Bigger Risk From Traffic

They're 36% more likely to die in collisions than walkers: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2015 11:58 AM CST
Think Pedestrians in Wheelchairs Are Safer? Nope
An unidentified disabled man rolls his wheelchair between cars on a Miami exit ramp Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Pedestrians in wheelchairs are a whopping 36% more likely to die in a traffic collision compared to those out walking, according to a new study that's raising concerns about driver awareness and the availability of crosswalks. Researchers at Georgetown University combed through news articles and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to identify 528 wheelchair-using pedestrians killed in collisions from 2006 to 2012, reports UPI. Though about 5,000 pedestrians die in traffic collisions in the US each year, according to the Department of Transportation, researchers say pedestrians in wheelchairs have a much higher risk of death. The risk for male wheelchair users was five times higher than for female users, reports Reuters, while male users aged 50 to 64 had a 75% higher risk of death compared to walkers of the same age group.

Researchers found no evidence that drivers tried to avoid a collision in 75% of crashes involving wheelchair users. Nearly half of collisions occurred at intersections; in almost 20% of those cases, there was no crosswalk available, and in nearly 40% of those cases, there were no traffic controls, reports the University Herald. This suggests "pedestrian infrastructure" is ill-suited to people with mobility impairments, study author John Kraemer says. They may even be forced to use the street thanks to a lack of curb cuts allowing them to use the sidewalk. "It is entirely possible that people who use wheelchairs may be at greater risk of death ... because drivers are less likely to see them, brake, and collide slower; because being lower to the ground wheelchair users may be hit more squarely; or because some people who use wheelchairs may have pre-existing medical vulnerabilities," he adds. "Understanding and describing risks are the first steps to reversing them." (This is the deadliest day to be a pedestrian.)

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