In February 2019, a 90-year-old Rhode Island resident died outside of a community center. The elderly pedestrian died from his injuries after a garbage truck hit him. Sadly, the man routinely visited the community center which hosts activities such as exercise classes, Scrabble tournaments, and other senior activities. This man’s death is only one of the many cases of seniors becoming pedestrian accident victims. With the number of elderly pedestrian deaths on the rise, it is advantageous to learn about tips to avoid pedestrian accidents.
Every Year, Many U.S. Seniors Become Pedestrian Accident Victims
According to the Centers for Disease Control, seniors are at higher risk of dying in a pedestrian accident. Pedestrians age 65 and older account for 20% of all pedestrian deaths. Those age 65 and older also accounted for 10% of all injuries involving pedestrians in 2017. Overall, nearly 6,000 people died in pedestrian traffic accidents in 2017. One pedestrian death happens every 88 minutes in the United States. The higher the vehicle speed, the more likely that a pedestrian will be struck by it. Similarly, the higher the speed of the car, the more severe the pedestrian’s injuries will likely be.
Additionally, nearly 137,000 people suffered from pedestrian injuries that require treatment in emergency rooms in 2017. When a pedestrian and a car collide, the pedestrian is 1.5 times more likely to die in the accident than the vehicle occupant. Nearly half of all pedestrian deaths from accidents involve a driver or pedestrian who has used alcohol. One out of every three pedestrian accidents that cause the death of a pedestrian involves a pedestrian with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit. Additionally, 17% involved a driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.
Tips to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents in the United States
According to the National Health and Transportation Safety Administration, pedestrian accidents were at an all-time high in 2018. In 2018, more pedestrians died in accidents than in any other year since 1990. Understanding how to prevent pedestrian deaths can be incredibly helpful. The organization recommends the following pedestrian safety tips:
- Follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic signals
- Avoid walking on the street; walk on the sidewalks whenever they are available
- Walk facing traffic when possible
- Walk as far away from traffic as possible
- Be alert at all times by not becoming distracted by electronic devices
- Do not take your eyes off the road or stop listening
- Cross the street at intersections and crosswalks when possible. When crossing the street, always look for oncoming cars in every direction. Specifically, check for cars turning left or right.
- Do not cross a street when an intersection or crosswalk is not available.
- If you must cross a street without a crosswalk, you need to locate a well-lit area. Choose a location to cross in which you have the best view of traffic. Wait for traffic to pause long enough for you to cross safely. The entire time that you are crossing the intersection, continue watching for traffic.
- Always assume that drivers cannot see you, even if you think they can. When possible, make eye contact with oncoming drivers when they approach you to make sure you can be seen.
- Try to make yourself as visible as possible. At night, wear a reflective vest or jacket and use a flashlight. During the day, wear bright clothing.
- While walking, check for cars exiting or entering the driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
- Do not walk after you have been drinking or using drugs as they impair your judgment
Try to Stay in Walkable Communities
If you are in an urban area, you may walk to and from work. In those scenarios, you likely will not have a choice as to where you walk. However, when you are walking for leisure, or when you have a choice as to where you walk, choose walkable communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that communities take action to become more walkable. Walkable communities have designated areas for walkers and bicyclists and safe street signs. Reducing traffic speed can also help reduce the risk of pedestrian deaths. Zones with 20 miles per hour speed limits are associated with a 42% decrease in all crashes.
Walk During the Day or in Well-Lit Areas
Most elderly pedestrian accidents happen during the night or in areas that are not well-lit. One of the most important things elderly individuals can do to avoid pedestrian accidents is to see and be seen. If possible, avoid walking when it is pitch dark outside. Even with reflective gear on, elderly walkers will be more difficult to spot in the dark.
Additionally, always use designated walking paths and sidewalks. You might be walking in a very low traffic area and think it is fine to walk in the middle of the road. However, even if you do not think many cars are coming your way, it is always best to walk on the sidewalk, or at least on the side of the road, if there is no sidewalk.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Cross the Street
Many elderly pedestrians take longer than younger people to cross the road. Additionally, many elderly pedestrians live with medical conditions that make it more challenging to cross the road. Elderly pedestrians should give themselves more time to safely cross the street. They should be sure to start walking immediately when the signal turns green and allows them to cross. Walking with friends or in a walking group is another way to stay safe as a pedestrian. Not only is walking in a group more fun, but it will make the elderly pedestrians more visible to drivers.