Wheelchair users are 36 percent more likely to die in a collision with cars than other pedestrians, a new study reveals.

In a study published in the journal BMJ Open, researchers from Georgetown University found that the road is a riskier place for wheelchair users than other pedestrians. Researchers John Kraemer and Dr. Connor Benton wanted to investigate on how often pedestrians using wheelchairs are killed in car collisions.

"Understanding and describing risks are the first steps to reversing them," explains Kraemer, an assistant professor of health systems administration at Georgetown's School of Nursing and Health Studies. "While there was a little data on non-fatal pedestrian injuries among people who use wheelchairs, there were almost none on fatal injuries."

Kramer and Benton found that persons who use wheelchairs are at 36 percent increased risk of getting killed in car crashes than non-wheelchair users. To come up with the figure, the researchers used data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System as well as reports of car crash fatalities from the LexisNexis newspaper database in the United States.

From the data, Kraemer and Benton estimated the number of wheelchair users who died in car collisions. According to their calculations, around 528 wheelchair users were fatalities in road traffic accidents in the United States from 2006 to 2012. They also determined that the bulk of the accidents happened in intersections and that men are five times more likely to die in crashes than women.

The study sheds light on the safety of pedestrians especially those who use wheelchairs on roads across the country. The researchers urge city planners to consider ways to make sidewalks safer for wheelchair users. Furthermore, they encourage drivers to be aware and careful since pedestrians using wheelchairs are not able to react in the same way as others do.

"When there is poor pedestrian infrastructure or it's poorly adapted to people with mobility impairments, people who use wheelchairs often are forced to use the streets, or are otherwise exposed to greater risk," Kraemer said.

He suggests that communities should be "designed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act." This will pave way for persons using wheelchairs to use these facilities "fully and safely."

"Persons who use wheelchairs experience substantial pedestrian mortality disparities, calling for behavioral and built environment interventions," the authors wrote in the study.

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