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The Risk of Car Accident Fatalities is Greater for Wheelchair Users Than Other Pedestrians

February 16, 2016 | Category: Car Accidents

Pedestrians visiting California from other states are often amazed by California drivers who seem to stop on a dime to let them safely cross a street. It may be the law, but each Los Angeles injury lawyer at our firm is understandably proud of the courtesy extended to pedestrians in this state. Still, even in California, which has accessibility standards that often exceed federal requirements, a recent study has indicated that pedestrians in wheelchairs are more likely to die in car accidents.

By understanding the causes of the problem, perhaps new solutions can be developed to reduce the danger.

A Recent Study Reveals Some Alarming Statistics

In November 2015, a United Press International article discussed the findings of a Georgetown University study. Based on federal traffic fatality details and news articles covering the period between 2006 and 2012, the researchers found that across the U.S., fatality rates for pedestrians in wheelchairs were 36 percent higher than for other pedestrians — even though the incidents frequently occurred at intersections. Some of the most significant findings are as follows:

  • The areas with higher incident rates did not have traffic controls or crosswalks.
  • Incidents often involved areas with poor pedestrian infrastructure or ones that were poorly-adapted to individuals with mobility impairments. These issues often forced wheelchair users into the streets.
  • No evidence indicated that drivers tried to avoid these accidents in about 75 percent of cases.

While the study focused on identifying a serious issue, however, it did not dig into the reasons behind the statistics. For example, it is clearly unlikely that motorists do not care about the safety of individuals in wheelchairs. More likely, they did not see the wheelchairs in their paths.

California Accessibility Standards May Not Always Protect Wheelchair Users

California drivers are required by law to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in any crosswalk, regardless of whether or not it is marked. Even though Californians typically obey this rule, it is only effective when pedestrians are visible to them. The primary issue is that wheelchairs are low to the ground, often below the sight line of motorists.

Another issue involves the California accessibility standards, which are designed to assist a wide range of individuals with conflicting needs. For example, bumps at curbs that assist visually-impaired people can pose extra challenges for those in wheelchairs.

Determining liability when individuals in wheelchairs suffer injuries or fatalities in traffic accidents is clearly very complex. In some cases, attorneys will look into infrastructure issues, which can justify a claim that cites government liability.

Injury victims and their families need to seek assistance from a law firm that understands the issues behind these challenging cases. To get advice and support from an attorney who is dedicated to helping injury victims pursue their rights, call The Rudman Law Firm APC at 844-478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, at our Los Angeles office at 213-375-3777 or at our Studio City office 818-769-6969.

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