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Wheelchair users more likely to be victims in pedestrian accident

Pedestrians are at risk every day when crossing the busy streets in Pittsburgh and other major cities. One study shows that pedestrians in wheelchairs face a number of dangers that make them 36 percent more likely to die in a fatal car accident than others.

The study, conducted by John Kraemer and Connor Benton at Georgetown University School of Medicine, analyzes the National Highway Safety Administration accident data from 2006 to 2012. In the journal BMJ Open Access, Kraemer and Benton indicated that each year, 5,000 pedestrians are killed and 76,000 are injured on public roads.

Researchers calculated that 528 wheelchair users were killed in these accidents, making the death rate for wheelchair users over 30 percent higher than for other pedestrians. The authors acknowledge that the proportion of wheelchair fatalities may be underestimated. Motor scooters were not counted as wheelchairs due to insufficient data separating mopeds from other mobility devices.

A large number of fatal crashes occur at intersections with no traffic control devices. But, why is than an increased risk for wheelchair users?

Researchers say that the data does not indicate any specific reasons. However, according to Kramer, motorists may have trouble seeing wheelchair users. The study revealed that 15 percent of wheelchair accidents were related to visibility.

Wheelchair users also may be hit directly by vehicles as they are lower to the ground. Some people using wheelchairs also may have pre-existing medical issues that make them more likely to suffer injuries or die in these accidents.

Whatever the reason, the evidence does indicate that wheelchair-using pedestrians are more vulnerable to crashes than other pedestrians. The authors of the study encourage drivers to pay closer attention to the roadways and keep an eye out for wheelchairs on the roadways.

Source: Albany Daily Star, "Wheelchair users are more at risk of car accidents - Philadelphia Daily News, April 3, 2016

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