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Preventing deadly wheelchair pedestrian accidents

Pedestrians are in danger of suffering severe injuries in a collision with any type of motor vehicle. When the pedestrian is in a wheelchair, however, they lack the mobility and agility to avoid a crash. Often, unfortunately, the street design directly leads to a collision.

Crosswalks and intersections can be dangerous for pedestrians under normal circumstances. When the pedestrian is struggling with a movement disability, however, curb accessibility issues can lead to catastrophic accidents. Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines numerous requirements that city planners and engineers must follow specifically regarding curb ramps. ADA requires curb ramps when a pedestrian walkway intersects the street. Some design elements can include:

  • Ramp slopes are carefully calculated: According to the ADA requirements, the running slope of a curb ramp must not exceed an 8.33% grade. Anything steeper is not accessible to those in wheelchairs or motorized scooters.
  • Sufficient landings must be created: At the top of the ramp slope, there must be a level landing surface measuring at least 48 inches deep. This gives wheelchair users a stable platform to pause, anticipate traffic patterns and choose when it is safe to attempt to cross the street.
  • The base of the curb ramp in relation to the crosswalk: The foot of the ramp should fall directly inside the marked crosswalk or active travel lane. Forcing the wheelchair pedestrian to move outside the painted zones to enter the curb ramp could lead to serious collisions.

If a pedestrian becomes trapped in an intersection crosswalk, serious wheelchair accidents can occur. Similarly, if the slope of the curb ramp is not level at the top, the wheelchair pedestrian can inadvertently roll into heavy traffic. By following the ADA guidelines and encouraging drivers to be attentive of all pedestrians, the goal is to reduce wheelchair accidents in the future.

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