New Report Finds Older New Jersey Pedestrians at Risk
Analysis shows people aged 65 years and older suffer disproportionately high pedestrian fatality rates
Older pedestrians are far more likely to be killed while walking than their younger neighbors, according to a new study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. This is especially true in New Jersey where fatality rates for older pedestrians are far higher than in the rest of the country.
Between 2005 and 2007, 121 pedestrians aged 65 years and older were killed on New Jersey roads. Though comprising just over 12 percent of the state’s population, people aged 65 and older accounted for more than 22 percent of the total pedestrian fatalities during the three-year period. Those aged 75 years and older represent just over 6 percent of the New Jersey’s population, but more than 15 percent of pedestrian deaths.
“Pedestrian fatality rates for those aged 65 years and older are significantly higher than for the population as a whole,” said Michael Benediktsson, a Princeton University doctoral candidate in sociology who co-authored the study with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Nationwide, pedestrian collisions are the 5 th 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 New Jersey are even greater, with pedestrian fatality rates for people 65 years and older more twice as high as the rate for those younger than 65 years. People 75 years and older suffer a fatality rate that is more than three times that of their younger neighbors.
Older residents are suffering disproportionately, and as the population ages, it will get even worse,” said Sy Larson, State President of the New Jersey AARP. “We look to government to address this problem so that older pedestrians are better protected when crossing the street or highways.”
The Campaign’s analysis found that Atlantic County was the most dangerous place in New Jersey for older people to walk. The table below provides the full ranking of all New Jersey counties. (Cape May, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Salem, Sussex, and Warren Counties were excluded because few pedestrian fatalities were recorded in those counties.)
The Campaign recommended new and expanded efforts to improve safety for seniors. One example is the New York City Department of Transportation Safe Streets for Seniors program which has identified 25 neighborhoods across the city needing pedestrian safety improvements for older residents. NYCDOT engineers identify areas with high numbers of older pedestrian fatalities and make improvements such as extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks and shortening crossing distances, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways.
“Transportation departments in the region should improve senior safety with programs that target resources to specific locations where seniors face the greatest risk,” said Kate Slevin, the Campaign’s executive director.
Benediktsson and Tri-State staff analyst Michelle Ernst conducted the Campaign’s analysis. The two used recently released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the U.S. Bureau of the Census to examine fatality rates by age and gender for each county in New Jersey, downstate New York and Connecticut.
County fact sheets showing pedestrian fatality rates by age and gender, as well as other statistics are also available at www.tstc.org/reports.html
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.