How to Protect Pedestrians With Disabilities

Public agencies don’t track traffic deaths and injuries involving disabled people, leaving a gap in data to guide safety interventions.

1 minute read

March 28, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Young man in wheelchair crossing zebra crosswalk.

Vergani Fotografia / Adobe Stock

In an opinion piece in Governing, Claudia Folska calls on transportation officials and planners to bring people with disabilities — one in four American adults — into the conversation about road safety. According to Folska, “No public agency at any level of government specifically tracks traffic fatalities and injuries involving disabled pedestrians. Police aren’t even required to note a disability on the accident report.” Yet wheelchair users are at a roughly 36 percent higher risk of dying than pedestrians on foot.

Folska argues that people with disabilities must be at the planning table, otherwise “roadway engineers and urban planners are basically taking educated guesses about where to spend money on safety improvements and which ones to employ.” 

Folska suggests interventions like curb cuts, traffic calming, safe crosswalks, and accessible sidewalks, adding that “It would help to have an accurate count of accidents, injuries and fatalities involving anyone who meets the definition of disabled.”

“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which provides the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other agencies with information on traffic fatalities, could and should create a category for disabled pedestrians, and then break it down by specific disabilities.” This data can then be used to make informed decisions about safety interventions.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024 in Governing

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