Elderly pedestrians, those over 65 years of age, are far more likely to be killed in motor vehicle accidents while walking than younger ones, according to a new study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. The study analyzed accidents occurring between 2005 and 2007 in New York City and five nearby counties: Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Orange.
The study found that 255 pedestrians aged 65 years and older were killed on downstate New York roads. Though comprising less than 12 percent of the area’s population, people aged 65 and older accounted for 30 percent of the total pedestrian fatalities during the three-year period. Those aged 75 years and older represent less than 6 percent of the downstate New York’s population, but more than 18 percent of pedestrian deaths. Nationwide, pedestrian collisions are the 5th leading cause of accidental death for people aged 65 and older. And pedestrian fatality rates for older Americans are more than 70 percent higher than for those under 65 years.
But the disparities in downstate New York are even greater, with pedestrian fatality rates for people 65 years and older more than four times the rate for those younger than 65 years. People 75 years and older suffer a fatality rate that is more than five times that of their younger neighbors.
The Campaign recommended new and expanded efforts to improve safety for seniors. One example is the New York City Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets for Seniors program. NYCDOT recognized the disparity in senior pedestrian fatalities and last year began taking aggressive steps to make street safety improvements for older residents. The department identified 25 target neighborhoods citywide with high numbers of older pedestrian injuries and fatalities and initiated comprehensive improvements such as extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks, shortening crossing distances, building pedestrian refuge islands, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways. These have already brought changes to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, Flushing, Queens and Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and plans are in place for improvements to Fordham, Bronx and New Dorp, Staten Island.
Another program initiated by New York City is placing pedestrian countdown signals at intersections. The countdown signals display the number of seconds pedestrians have to cross the street before the opposing vehicle traffic is given the right of way. They are the same size as the existing pedestrian signal head, but feature a dual display (the traditional “Walking Man” and “Hand” display, and a pedestrian interval countdown display).
The countdown feature is programmed to start at the beginning of the “flashing hand” cycle and end when the flashing hand becomes steady. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign states that is a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
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