Manhattan Streets Especially Deadly for Seniors

tstcchart_1.jpgTSTC stats compiled from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and US Census data

Older pedestrians face a disproportionate risk of death in Manhattan and other downstate New York areas, according to a new study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Though senior fatality rates are high across the region — people aged 65 and older accounted for 30 percent of pedestrian deaths during the three-year study period, yet comprised less than 12 percent of the area’s population — Manhattan was "the most dangerous place in downstate New York for older people to walk." Between 2005 and 2007, 50 people aged 65 or older were killed on Manhattan streets, an average of 8.27 deaths per 100,000 seniors. The same period saw 1.82 deaths per 100,000 people under age 65.

Nassau County ranked as having the second most dangerous downstate pedestrian environment for seniors, followed by Staten Island and Brooklyn. Queens and the Bronx ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.

"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."

TSTC applauded efforts like DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors, and suggested similar programs for other areas, particularly in Long Island and Connecticut. See the TSTC web site for complete report data and county and borough fact sheets.

Given this preventable public health crisis right in their own backyards, we’re expecting public calls to action from incensed local electeds any time now. C’mon Alan Gerson, where’s the Safe Streets for Seniors bill? When’s your camera-ready rant scheduled, Anthony Weiner? Anyone?

  • While the 4-fold higher death rate of seniors to non-seniors under the wheels of automobiles is appalling, I feel that a more compelling comparison would have been with other ways in which seniors are violently killed.

    In Killed By Automobile, published nearly a decade ago, we found that New Yorkers age 65 and older were more than twice as likely to be run over and killed by a motor vehicle as to be murdered (i.e., a homicide victim) during 1994-1997. (This was #2 of our “Ten Key Findings” compiled on p. 12.)

    Though homicide and car-kill rates have both fallen since then, it might have been useful for TSTC to update our comparison from Killed By Automobile. Given how fearful many seniors are of being murdered, there might be real impact from showing that even more seniors are run over and killed.

    Separately, as a statistician I take issue with the assertion in the Tri-State report that Manhattan was “the most dangerous place in downstate New York for older people to walk.” Although the data in the report do show the highest per-population death rate in Manhattan, the rank as to danger depends on the “exposure,” i.e., the number of seniors who walk. Given the relatively high rate of walking by seniors (and others) in Manhattan, I suspect that Suffolk, Nassau, Rockland and perhaps many other counties were, and are, more dangerous places for seniors to walk than Manhattan.

  • Rhywun

    Obviously, they’ve done the calculations and decided that wider streets and faster cars are a higher priority than a few dead pedestrians. Trade-offs, people!

  • Yet more proof that places with heavy sidewalk and transit use are incompatible with unrestricted access by cars. The solutions are car-free shopping districts, wider sidewalks, widespread deployment of bollards, barrier-protected medians on all wide streets, and stronger traffic calming measures on streets with repeated fatalities — combined with real enforcement of the laws against speeding, U-turns, and honking (because noise is a physical hazard too).

  • Kate Slevin

    Thanks for your comments, Charlie. We would love to redo your report. Given its strict NYC focus, however, Transportation Alternative might be better suited for the project (unless we updated it on a regional scale).

    You have an excellent point about exposure. We have been trying to make a point that per exposure basis, places like Nassau are far and away the most dangerous places to walk. The problem is with measurement. How do you quantify how much people of each age group walk? I think the fact that Nassau is second on the list shows that NYC DOT is doing something right, and the NYS DOT Region 10 on Long Island is doing a lot wrong.

    That being said, there is an argument to be made that if more people are dying in one place, regardless of exposure, safety improvements should be targeted to that location. Treat each life and death equally, in other words.

  • Thanks for your comment back, Kate. I should clarify that I wasn’t envisioning an update of “Killed By Automobile.” The first calculation I suggested — comparing “KBA” rates to homicide rates — could be done in under an hour. All you need is age-based homicide rates by county. Second, it shouldn’t be too hard to think up a reasonable proxy way for senior walking rates — perhaps peds’ share of commute splits would suffice. That too would take around an hour to calculate.

  • Kate Slevin

    You could use commute rates as a proxy but explaining the assumptions to the media and the general public might require some leaps of faith. We have the commute data and could have used it but we decided that the numbers don’t necessarily translate to the senior population.

  • these dates are from ’05-’07 … i bet when gas prices increased towards the end of 2007 through ’08 there were probably less pedestrian deaths since people slow down …. that was the only pro of having high gas prices

  • C

    You know what else is deadly for seniors? Living. Give me a break.

  • mike

    LocalApple — high gas prices have quite a few more positives than fewer pedestrian deaths! Less pollution, more people on bikes and on public transit, and perhaps a recognition that a high-energy-addicted society is not sustainable in any sense of the word.

    C – I know I should ignore you because you are troll, but your opinion, quite plainly, is pretty dumb. Next time your grandmother gets hit by some jerk in an SUV who turned into her, don’t complain.

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