BEACON TRANSCRIPT – According to an analysis of U.S. crash data, wheelchair users are more likely to die in car collisions than other pedestrians. Examining the accident records revealed pedestrians traveling in wheelchairs are 36 percent more prone to die in these crashes than other people.
The same data showed that the fatality odds for men were more than five times higher than those of female wheelchair users. Data didn’t reveal, however, why wheelchair users are more vulnerable to car accidents than other pedestrians.
But the findings point to the need for safer sidewalks and more awareness on behalf of the drivers, who should be more careful knowing that people in wheelchairs may move slower or have different reactions than other pedestrians.
Study co-author John Kraemer of the Department of Health Systems Administration at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. said the reasons for the greater risk of death in the case of wheelchairs users are varied.
Perhaps drivers are less likely to see them, brake, and collide at a slower speed; or the hit has more impact because the wheelchair is closer to the ground; or because some people in wheelchairs could have pre-existing medical conditions. But the reasons why wheelchair users are more vulnerable aren’t as important as the takeaway message: drivers should be more careful.
In an email, Kraemer said that drivers need to stop texting and driving, obey speed limits and stop signs. It’s easy to forget there are other road users – like bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities – when we’re behind the steering wheel. But paying more attention to other people in the traffic can go a long way.
According to the report published in the journal BMJ Open Access, approximately 5,000 pedestrians are killed and another 76,000 are injured in public roadways accidents each year – and this in the U.S. alone.
Kraemer and co-author Connor Benton at the Georgetown University School of Medicine assessed the vulnerability of wheelchair users by analyzing data from 2006 to 2012. The sources where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System – which rests on police reports of collisions – as well as news articles of accidents.
During the study period, roughly 528 wheelchairs users were killed in road traffic collisions, a death rate a third higher for wheelchair pedestrians than for the general population. While drivers need to be more careful, wheelchair users can also wear reflective clothing and avoid crossing at intersections if they don’t enough time.
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