According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the rate of elderly pedestrian fatalities in those three states is higher than in the rest of the country.
Pedestrian collisions are the fifth leading cause of accidental death for Americans 60 and older in those states, a rate 50 percent higher than for those under 60. The fatality rate in New York is even higher, with Manhattan rated most dangerous for older pedestrians. The campaign's research also indicated that the problem is not exclusively urban, with suburban Nassau County on Long Island ranked third in fatalities per capita.
Most of the older pedestrian fatalities measured in the study, nearly two-thirds, occurred on roads dubbed "arterials." These are fast-moving, multilane thoroughfares with above average traffic density and a perceptible lack of bicycle and pedestrian options.
To help reduce the annual number of fatalities, the campaign suggested that all states consider funding "safe routes" for both seniors and children en route to school. It also suggested that securing federal grants from the Highway Safety Improvement Program and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program could help reduce pedestrian casualties. Such funds would help improve crosswalk, signage and street marking visibility, along with paying for street repairs, upgrades and the installation of high-visibility crosswalks and high-tech time signals. Lastly, it suggested that "complete streets" policies and laws should be implemented by urban and transportation planners, in conjunction with more accommodating roadway design and operation.
Connecticut and New Jersey are already working to implement such policies with the help of advocacy groups.
Outside of these initiatives, seniors can do a lot to protect themselves:
• Always be alert, as drivers don't always yield to pedestrians, even though it's the law
• Choose a safe place to cross the street like crosswalks and traffic lights
• Wear bright colored clothing, especially when walking during evening hours
• Walk straight across the road, taking the shortest route possible
• Walk quickly if possible
• Maintain eye contact with drivers
• Avoid crossing the street on a hill, near a bend or from between parked cars
• Avoid the use of headphones or cell phones while crossing
• Avoid pedestrian travel on bigger roads and thoroughfares
• Secure rides from friends, neighbors, relatives or public transportation whenever possible.
If you or someone you know is involved in a pedestrian accident, contact an attorney immediately to weigh your options.