Wheelchair users face greater pedestrian-related risks, study says

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Washington – Wheelchair users are about 36 percent more likely to be killed in vehicle-pedestrian crashes than non-wheelchair pedestrians, according to a study from Georgetown University.

In addition, nearly half of fatal crashes involving vehicles and wheelchairs occurred at intersections – many of which did not feature crosswalks. Male wheelchair users 50 to 64 years old faced the greatest risk of death in a vehicle-pedestrian crash. Researchers discovered the findings by using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The results highlight the need for better awareness and continued research into safety issues for wheelchair pedestrians, experts say. Previous studies have suggested that wheelchair users are more difficult for drivers to see because of their speed, location and height.

“Understanding and describing risks are the first steps to reversing them,” Georgetown researcher John Kraemer said in a press release. “While there was a little data on non-fatal pedestrian injuries among people who use wheelchairs, there were almost none on fatal injuries.”

The study was published Nov. 20 in the journal BMJ Open.