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Why older pedestrians are more at risk

For many people in New York City, walking is a fun activity that allows them to exercise while getting places. Win-win. However, being a pedestrian is not without its share of risks, and they seem especially high for pedestrians 65 and older. In fact, city data show that the death rate for pedestrians per 100,000 people in this age group is 5.7 people. It is a much leaner 1.7 people for those aged 18 to 64 and drops to 0.6 for children 17 and younger.

Here is an examination of why older pedestrians are particularly at risk.

More older adults walk

As people age, many recognize that their driving skills are not what they once were. So, instead of driving places, they start relying more on walking and public transportation to get around. However, issues such as medication conflicts, memory problems, slowed reaction time and hearing impairment that may have affected their ability to drive safely also put them more at risk when they walk.

This is not to say that these older adults are at fault in car crashes. Car, bus and truck drivers always have the responsibility of being careful wherever they are, be it in an intersection, parking lot or busy road crossing. Pedestrians can be old, young or middle-aged, and they could be dealing with a wide range of physical, cognitive and language barriers, especially in a diverse place such as New York City.

Their bodies are frail

People's bodies weaken as they age. For example, they break bones more easily. A crash that would have "merely" injured a 25-year-old may well kill a 75-year-old. Also, in cases where older people sustain injuries, they tend to take longer to recover and may never be who they were before the crash.

The answer is not for older people to stop walking in addition to driving. Some options are to explore routes or times of day with less auto traffic, or to walk with a buddy and enhance their visibility.


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