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What changes are needed to reduce bicycle & pedestrian accidents?

Our post last week focused on a California law set to go into effect later this month. It requires that drivers observe a three-foot buffer zone when passing bicyclists on the street. The “Three Feet for Safety” law is just one tactic that could dramatically reduce bicycle accidents and fatalities, which are a significant problem across the country.

According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, two percent of all fatalities from motor-vehicle crashes are individuals riding bicycles. Pedestrians account for more than 10 percent of victims killed in car accidents. So what else can be done to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety?

The IIHS notes that accident and fatality rates could be reduced through the implementation of crash-avoidance technology in motor vehicles. Traffic engineering improvements to existing infrastructure are also needed.

Auto manufacturers are introducing a number of new automated safety features designed to compensate for human error. These include a number of cameras and sensors monitoring the outside of the vehicle and the space around it. In some cases, this technology can detect the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians in front of the vehicle and automatically begin braking if the driver fails to do so.

As we wrote last week, much of the nation’s transportation infrastructure was designed only for motor vehicles. Pedestrians and bicyclists have had to share this existing infrastructure with motor vehicles, and the results are often deadly.

The good news is that relatively small changes could make a big difference. The IIHS suggests implementing the following changes to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety:

  • Ensuring that pedestrians and bicyclists are separated from traffic through the use of overpasses, underpasses and sidewalks
  • Improving traffic signals and the timing of traffic signals to give pedestrians and bicyclists more time to cross the street in a sidewalk
  • Building “median refuge islands” that separate opposing traffic and allow pedestrians to stand safely in the median if they are unable to fully cross the street in time

These changes will need to be implemented slowly over time, and some are already being seen here in the Bay Area. Meanwhile, if you have been injured in a pedestrian or bicycle accident, it is important to understand your rights and options. Please speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about pursuing appropriate compensation for medical bills and other losses.

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