Researchers say that for certain unspecified reason, the risk of people in wheelchairs getting killed in a car accident are higher.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 5,000 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes each year and an estimated 76,000 are injured. An investigation was done on how often wheelchair users are killed in car-pedestrian crashes.
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The research was led by John Kraemer, JD, MPH, assistant professor of health systems administration at Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies and a scholar at the university’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
The study used the data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) (based on police reports of road traffic collisions on U.S. roads) and data from news stories about car crash fatalities published on the LexisNexis U.S. newspaper database was used for the research.
Through this study researchers could estimate how many wheelchair users were pedestrian fatalities. The findings of this study were published in BMJ Open.
The examination revealed that pedestrians in wheelchairs were 36 percent more likely to die in these crashes than other people, the examination of accident records found. According to research stats, 528 pedestrians using wheelchairs were killed in road traffic collisions in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012.
Also found was the risk of car-related death which was over five times higher for men in wheelchairs than for women, particularly among men aged 50 to 64. Almost half (47.5 percent) of the fatal crashes occurred at intersections, and in almost four out of 10 (39 percent) of these cases, traffic flow was not controlled.
Kraemer said that the data doesn’t show why wheelchair users may be more vulnerable than other pedestrians.
“Understanding and describing risks are the first steps to reversing them,” says John Kraemer. “While there was a little data on non-fatal pedestrian injuries among people who use wheelchairs, there were almost none on fatal injuries.”
The findings however suggest that city planners should consider ways to make sidewalks safer and drivers should be aware that people in wheelchairs may not move or react in the same way as others do.
He contributed the factors of being low in a wheelchair provides less visibility to driver. Other reason being that a person in wheelchair cannot react as quickly as a person on foot can in case of a fatal oncoming accident.
“A high proportion of crashes occurred at locations without traffic controls or crosswalks,” explains Kraemer, whose work focuses on the intersection of public health and law.
“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.”
He said that whatever the reason maybe, the drivers should undertake some responsibility and try to drive under the speed limits and keep their eyes on the road.
“It is important to make sure that communities are designed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act so that people with disabilities can use them fully and safely,” says Kraemer.