Between 2006 and 2008, 290 pedestrians aged 60 years and older were killed in motor vehicle accidents on downstate New York roads. Though comprising just over 17 percent of the area’s population, people aged 60 and older accounted for 42 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 nearly 20 percent of pedestrian deaths.
Details are contained in a report released earlier this month by Tri-State Transportation Campaign titled The Most Dangerous Roads for Walking. Fatality rates for older pedestrians struck by motor vehicles are far higher in downstate New York than in the rest of the country. Pedestrian fatality rates for people 60 years and older 3.7 times the rate for those younger than 60 years. People 75 years and older suffer a fatality rate that is nearly five times that of their younger neighbors.
On a county basis, the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn are the most dangerous for older pedestrians. In Manhattan, pedestrians aged 60 years and older account for a staggering 46.7 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the borough, though only 17.3 percent of Manhattans population is 60 years or older. These figures give Manhattan an older pedestrian fatality rate of 6.67 per 100,000 population, more than 2.7 times the boroughs overall pedestrian fatality rate. Brooklyn older pedestrians suffered a similarly high fatality rate.
Rankings of counties in New York, in order of decreasing fatality rate per 100,000:
- Nassau County;
- Staten Island
- Orange County
- the Bronx
- Suffolk County
- Westchester Count
- Dutchess County.
Nationwide, pedestrian collisions are the 5th leading cause of accidental death for people aged 60 and older. And pedestrian fatality rates for older Americans are more than 50 percent higher than for those under 60 years. Arterial routes wide – high-speed thoroughfares that typically have at least two lanes in each direction and accommodate prevailing travel speeds of 40 mph or greater – are the most dangerous.
Nearly two-thirds of older pedestrian fatalities occurred on arterials roads, such as Route 9 running through New Jerseys shore counties, the Hempstead Turnpike bisecting Nassau County, and US-1 running the length of Connecticut, although arterials comprise 15 percent of regional roadway mileage.
As a practical matter, these concerns will only increase as the regions population ages, with people aged 60 years and older expected to make up 26 percent of the tri-state population by 2030, a huge jump from their current 17.6 percent of the regional population. Compounding the problem is that when those in this group find they can no longer safely drive, they face additional risks as pedestrians.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign urged leaders in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to take action to reduce high fatality rates. For New York, it urged:
- Passing the currently pending complete streets legislation (legislation (S.5711-Dilan/A.8587-Gantt) that would require engineers design roads to accommodate the needs of all users any time a new road is built or an existing road is retrofitted.
- Increase funding for Safe Streets for Seniors and Safe Routes to School programs aimed at reducing traffic injuries and fatalities for older residents and schoolchildren.
- Pass a statewide vulnerable users law that would stiffen penalties for drivers who kill or injure pedestrians, bicyclists, highway workers, or state troopers.
- Designate 10% of federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and 10% of federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding for pedestrian safety programs. Create a statewide Safe Routes to Transit program.
- Safe Streets for Seniors is a New York City Department of Transportation program wherein 25 senior pedestrian focus areas were designated based on statistical analysis and mapping, and then initiated a pilot program in each borough: Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; Flushing, Queens; the Lower East Side of Manhattan; Fordham/University Heights in the Bronx; and New Dorp/Hylan Blvd on Staten Island.
Typical improvement measures include lengthening the duration of crossing signals, increasing the visibility of street markings, repairing broken curbs and missing curb ramps, installing pedestrian refuges, and narrowing roadways with traffic calming techniques. Other studies previously discussed in this blog include an analysis of the tri-state regions most dangerous roads for pedestrians (Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County was the winner) and prior study comparing pedestrian fatalities on an age-basis.
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