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Older Pedestrians More Likely to Die in Traffic: Will New York State DOT Act?

Manhattan is the most dangerous borough for residents age 60 and older to walk, and older pedestrians throughout the metro region suffer disproportionately from deadly traffic violence, according to a new report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

With older pedestrians more likely to be killed by drivers, will NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald heed recommendations for safer streets? Photo: CT.gov
With older pedestrians more likely to be killed by drivers, will NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald heed recommendations for safer streets? Photo: ##http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1095&q=287398&ecdNav=|##CT.gov##
Joan McDonald, the new head of the state DOT. Image: CT.gov

The report recommends that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut adopt NACTO design guidelines for safer, multi-modal streets. New York State DOT said recently that the agency will not endorse NACTO standards for roads categorized as "collectors" and "arterials," which are some of the state’s most heavily-traveled and dangerous streets.

For its latest annual "Older Pedestrians at Risk" report, Tri-State analyzed 10 years of metro area data from the Census Bureau and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System. While people age 60 and older made up 17 percent of the population in Manhattan from 2003 to 2012, they accounted for 42 percent of the 364 pedestrian fatalities that occurred during that time.

“At 5.46 per 100,000, the pedestrian fatality rate for Manhattan residents aged 60 and older was 3.67 times that of residents younger than 60,” says the report. “For those aged 75 years plus, the fatality rate (8.33) was 5.59 times that of their younger neighbors.”

In Nassau County, people age 60 and older were three and a half times more likely to be killed by a driver while walking than younger residents. Older residents of Westchester County faced three times the risk.

While much of the data was gleaned from local roads, not state roads, NYS DOT could allocate its resources to improve safety on any type of street in New York.

Data for other boroughs was reported as follows.

    • Brooklyn: 473 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 4.94 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — four times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Brooklynites age 75 and older was 6.63 per 100,000 people.
    • Bronx: 225 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.94 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — more than three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Bronxites age 75 and older was 4.05 per 100,000 people.
    • Queens: 364 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.75 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — more than three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Queens residents age 75 and older was 5.79 per 100,000 people.
    • Staten Island: 76 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.57 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Staten Islanders age 75 and older was 5.56 per 100,000 people.

Overall, the fatality rate for downstate New York residents age 60 and older was three times higher than for people under 60, according to the report, and residents 75 and older were killed at four times the rate of people under 60.

“Despite older pedestrians’ increased risk of being killed while walking, simple roadway improvements -- clearly marked crosswalks, longer crossing signals and wider pedestrian islands -- make walking safer and easier for older residents and younger residents alike," said Veronica Vanterpool, TSTC executive director, in a written statement.

In addition to endorsing NACTO guidelines for the region, the report includes specific recommendations for each state. For New York, Tri-State recommends that New York State DOT invest 5 percent of its next capital plan in pedestrian infrastructure, improve its accounting of bike-ped funds, and track its progress in complying with the state’s complete streets law.

The report also suggests New York adopt statewide programs for senior pedestrian safety and Safe Routes to Transit, give localities the authority to set speed limits at 25 miles per hour, and encourage cities and towns statewide to build more transit-oriented development.

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