New Report Finds Older Downstate 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 downstate New York where fatality rates for older pedestrians are far higher than in the rest of the country.
Between 2005 and 2007, 255 pedestrians aged 65 years and older were killed on downstate New York roads. Though comprising less than 12 percent of the area’s population, people aged 65 and older accounted for 30 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 more than 18 percent of pedestrian deaths.
“The data proves that 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 5th 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 downstate New York are even greater, with pedestrian fatality rates for people 65 years and older more than four times the rate for those younger than 65 years. People 75 years and older suffer a fatality rate that is more than five times that of their younger neighbors.
“Clearly, older tri-state residents are suffering disproportionately,” said William Stoner, AARP New York’s Associate State Director for Livable Communities. “Making our streets safe and livable to accommodate our aging population will require taking a close look at the infrastructure of our communities.”
“Five years of working through our Safe Routes for Seniors program has shown us that the ability to walk safely in the city is paramount to seniors’ independence and health,” says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “We must put an end to the disproportionately high number of fatalities and severe injuries that seniors suffer in crashes and recognize walkability as the major public health issue it truly is.”
The Campaign’s analysis found that Manhattan was the most dangerous place in downstate New York for older people to walk. But clearly the issue is not just an urban one. Nassau County ranked 2nd in the region in per capita terms, worse than any NYC borough outside Manhattan, while the city’s least dense borough, Staten Island, also ranked high on the list. The table below provides the full ranking of all downstate counties and boroughs. (Putnam and Dutchess 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's Safe Streets for Seniors program. NYCDOT recognized the disparity in senior pedestrian fatalities and last year began taking aggressive steps to make street safety improvements for older residents. The department identified 25 target neighborhoods citywide with high numbers of older pedestrian injuries and fatalities and initiated comprehensive improvements such as extending pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks, shortening crossing distances, building pedestrian refuge islands, altering curbs and sidewalks, restricting vehicle turns, and narrowing roadways. These have already brought changes to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, Flushing, Queens and Manhattan's Lower East Side, and plans are in place for improvements to Fordham, Bronx and New Dorp, Staten Island.
“Transportation departments in the region should improve senior safety with programs that target resources to specific locations where seniors face the greatest risk. Such efforts are especially needed on Long Island and in Connecticut where walking seniors face very dangerous conditions,” 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/borough 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 Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.