NEW YORK – If you’re one of the 2.2 million Americans who use a wheelchair to get around town, you may be at higher risk of getting struck by a car, a new study claims.
The findings are troubling; pedestrian wheelchair users are 36 percent more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than anyone else. The authors, from Georgetown University, also said that 75 percent of drivers didn’t brake or steer away before running over a wheelchair user.
Brooklyn car accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes say the statistics are alarming but most of these crashes could be prevented with safety education and safe-driving practices.
“Many crashes involve high speeds and drivers who are not paying attention to the busy streets in Brooklyn,” car accident lawyer Steve Barnes said. “Distractions are now at an all-time high for drivers and if these can be eliminated, many crashes could be avoided.”
The study gathered news articles and police reports for over 250 traffic deaths involving pedestrian wheelchair users. When they crunched the numbers, researchers estimated 1 fatality for every 50,000 wheelchair users each year.
Half of all the crashes analyzed occurred at an intersection.
Researchers suggested street layouts and city designs need to be changed to become more handicap-accessible. The study found that many crashes happened on arterial roadways. According to the Federal Highway Administration, it’s a design that “provides the highest level of service at the greatest speed for the longest uninterrupted distance.”
Attorneys say those who use a wheelchair deserve to access their communities in a safe way.
“It’s no secret that some intersections are simply more dangerous than others,” Steve Barnes said. “Many drivers live in these neighborhoods commute these dangerous intersections every day and although they know these areas are dangerous, they still fail to slow down and pay attention.”
The other shocking statistic uncovered by Georgetown researchers was that most of the drivers in these fatal crashes showed no signs of trying to avoid the accident.
“Wheelchairs are lower to the ground and some drivers may not see that person,” Barnes said. “But it’s no excuse if the pedestrian has the right of way – and if that person is injured, we will go to court to get the best results possible for them and their families.”
Researchers said if safety is a top-priority for American cities like New York, roadways and intersections must be reevaluated to boost the safety for all pedestrians – including the disabled.