Elderly citizens made up approximately 25 percent of all New York State pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The natural aging process in addition to the fast-paced city traffic play a large part in keeping elderly pedestrians at greater risk in accidents.
Why are elderly pedestrians more at risk?
The aging process makes elderly pedestrians more susceptible to being involved in a traffic accident than younger pedestrians. There are several reasons for this phenomena.
Slower Walkers, Slower Reflexes
Elders typically walk slower and have slower reflexes to react to oncoming vehicles. In addition, the use of assistive-devices such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair can make quick movements almost impossible.
As the body ages, certain faculties diminish. As we age, our eyesight worsens, as does our hearing, and this makes it harder for elders to hear or see oncoming traffic. Poor eyesight can also impair an elderly walker from seeing pedestrian signals and crosswalks.
The aging process can also result in cognitive decline. The danger is especially high for elderly pedestrians suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. These conditions can cause confusion, memory loss, and other cognitive disruptions that can delay crossing the street or cause the elder to walk into dangerous areas.
Finally, many drivers can become impatient waiting for elders to cross and attempt to speed around them. Maneuvers like this can startle the pedestrian and cause them to fall into oncoming traffic. Falls are also more likely in the winter months when roads and sidewalks become iced-over.
Preventing Elderly Pedestrian Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014, there were 4,884 fatalities nationwide; pedestrians over the age of 65 accounted for 979 of those deaths. Both drivers and family members of elderly pedestrians can help reduce the rate of elderly pedestrian fatalities.
What Drivers Can Do
- Drivers should always give extra time for elderly walkers to cross the street.
- Keep a safe distance when elders are walking nearby.
- Never honk at an elderly pedestrian crossing the street.
- Drive slowly in areas with a high elderly population.
What Pedestrians and Family Members Can Do
- Family members should try to offer their elders alternative transportation during busy traffic hours.
- Walk with a companion.
- Take the bus.
- Make sure you will have time to cross the street safely. Do not cross when the red hand is blinking and never step into the crosswalk until all drivers have stopped.
As technology advances and we start to see more driverless cars on the road, pedestrian fatalities will hopefully decline. However, in the meantime, it is up to every driver and pedestrian to do their part to stay safe when using our city streets and highways.