A new study found out that cars kill wheelchair users more frequently than other pedestrians. People in wheelchairs have a 36 percent higher risk of dying in car accidents than non-wheelchair users.
Oddly, five times more men users of wheelchairs die in crashes than female users. The data doesn’t reveal why any of these happen.
However, John Kramer from Georgetown University, co-author of the study, suggests that city planners should try to make sidewalks safer for differently-abled people and drivers should be made aware that they might not move or react as other people do.
Some of the hypotheses of the study are that either people in wheelchairs are harder to see so the drivers don’t break in time, either being closer to the ground causes more damage or simply because they might have medical conditions which make them more vulnerable.
Every year in the US about 5,000 pedestrians die from car accidents and other 76,000 are injured. Kraemer and Benton have studied police reports of collisions from 2006 to 2012 in order to assess how vulnerable people using wheelchairs are to car accidents.
The research revealed that 528 wheelchair users were killed in car crashes on public roads in the period of 6 years. This rate is about a third higher than that of the general population.
Almost 39 percent of the fatal accidents occurred in locations without traffic control devices and 30 percent took place in intersections, of which in 48 percent of the cases the victim was on a crosswalk and in 18 percent of the cases there were no crosswalks available. In 78 percent of the crashes no avoidance efforts by drivers have been detected. 15 percent of the drivers claimed that the persons in wheelchairs were not sufficiently visible.
Though, the study has limitations, as its authors acknowledge. One of them is that motorized scooters were not counted as wheelchairs since in police reports those were not separated from other mopeds.
However, the general conclusion is that people in wheelchairs are more vulnerable to car-caused fatalities than other pedestrians. This might be because they have a harder time moving away from the road, not being able to avoid an accident as other pedestrians would. Or it might be because they are not visible enough. But it might also be because of city planners’ indifference to the need of wheelchair accessible sidewalks.
In conclusion, everybody – from drivers to city planners – needs to be aware of the existence of differently-abled people and their right to safety.
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