Seniors at Risk: Pedestrian Safety a Major Concern
New analysis by the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign has found that seniors are at a higher risk than other populations when it comes to pedestrian traffic deaths. The group’s annual Older Pedestrians at Risk report (PDF), was released Wednesday.
The pedestrian fatality rate for people aged 60 and older in downstate New York (12 counties, including New York City), New Jersey and Connecticut is 64 percent higher than in the rest of the country, according to the report. Addressing traffic safety for this population will become increasingly urgent since the U.S. Census reports that by 2030, more than one-fifth of tri-state region residents will be 65 years or older.
“Tri-state residents aged 60 years and older suffer a pedestrian fatality rate that is 2.38 times the rate of those younger than 60. Those aged 75 years and older are even more vulnerable, with a fatality rate that is 3.09 times the rate for people younger than 60 years old.”
The report also found that pedestrians age 60 years and older make up nearly 18 percent of the population in downstate New York, and almost 37 percent of all pedestrian fatalities involve that population.
Looking at the same year span of 2008 to 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified nearly 500 fatal pedestrian accidents in New York City, with more than 150 victims age 65 and older. More pedestrians were killed in Brooklyn than any other borough (139), followed by Queens (125), Manhattan (101), the Bronx (75) and Staten Island (23).
MetroFocus recently went to Ocean Hill, Brooklyn to find out what seniors there are doing to address street safety in their neighborhood.
In Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, more than 50 seniors have joined forces to identify street safety issues in their neighborhood. Led by East Brooklyn Congregations, an advocacy group, the seniors are on a mission to inspect road conditions that might be perilous for senior citizens.
Grant Lindsay, a lead organizer with East Brooklyn Congregations, which helped organize the seniors in Ocean Hill to fight for better street safety, said not much has changed since we visited last month. While the Department of Transportation has been responsive to the group’s efforts, and is currently installing two much-needed stop lights on Flatlands Avenue in East New York, nothing has happened at the intersection of Eastern Parkway, Rockaway and St. Marks avenues.
“The flow of traffic needs to be redirected,” he said. “We can make it safer.”
The DOT has said they will study the area, and get back to him.
Lindsay said the Older Pedestrians at Risk report was not surprising.
“The DOT should be more invested in helping seniors get around their streets and sidewalks more safely,” he said.
Ruth Finkelstein is Senior Vice President of Policy and Planning for Age-Friendly NYC, a multi-agency initiative to make the city more accommodating for senior citizens. Finkelstein describes the mobility challenges seniors face every day and what the city can do to help.
DOT Spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said safety is the DOT’s “number one priority.”
“DOT has been designing more and more streets in neighborhoods across the city from the perspective of a senior,” he said in a statement. “This means more crossing time and shorter crossing distances, more pedestrian islands for seniors crossing the street and improvements at literally hundreds of intersections at all five boroughs.”
The DOT has been working on the Safe Streets for Seniors initiative since 2008, which is intended to transform city streets for the elderly pedestrian. Projects within the program were started in 25 neighborhoods with a high density of seniors and a high number of pedestrian accidents, and the DOT is currently working with Community Boards in 12 other neighborhoods to bring the program there, too. So far, 100 pedestrian islands have been built or expanded upon, new or expanded medians and curb extensions were installed and signal timing was adjusted to allow more crossing time for pedestrians.
But it’s not just seniors who are affected. According to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, 4,300 people died when hit by cars in 2010, a 4 percent increase from 2009. The vast majority of deaths, about 75 percent, took place in urban areas.