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Pedestrian Accidents More Common Among New Jersey Seniors

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional non-profit, has released the results of a study that reveals the disparity between pedestrian accidents among the elderly in New Jersey and those in other states. Elderly pedestrians in New Jersey are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than both older people in other states.

The study showed that pedestrians in New Jersey who were age 60 and older were killed by motor vehicles at the rate of 2.85 per 100,000 state residents. The national rate is 2.23, making seniors in New Jersey 28 percent more likely to die in pedestrian accidents than senior pedestrians in other states.

The organization reviewed data on nearly 47,000 fatal pedestrian accidents nationwide between 2003 and 2012. It released the results of the study last week. A spokes person for the transportation group noted that New Jersey’s population is rapidly aging and it is important that state and local officials address this when designing public spaces.

The study report did not speculate about why there is such a difference between New Jersey and other states. However, one person associated with the group suggested that population density and heavy traffic were factors that could account for much of the difference.

There are many arterial roads in New Jersey that are clogged with high speed traffic, making it difficult for slower moving seniors to cross, according to the emeritus director of the Alan M. Vorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers.

Tri-State made numerous recommendations as a result of the study that include:

  • Prioritize roadway improvements based on the senior population in the areas affected
  • Link state funding to municipalities with compliance with “complete streets”: designs that accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Enhance penalties for drivers who injure or kill pedestrians

The highest pedestrian fatality rate was in Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City. The lowest was in Sussex County, which remains largely rural.

Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City, had the highest fatality rates for both older and younger pedestrians, at 4.58 and 3.26 respectively. Largely rural Sussex had the lowest rates for both groups, at 0.76 for seniors and .25 for people under 60.

The study also surveyed Downstate New York, which includes New York City, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam Counties. The fatality rate for senior pedestrians was 4.0 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 1.31 for younger walkers.

In 2012, according to the National Safety Council, 51 percent of pedestrian deaths among those aged 65 and older was not their fault, compared to 47.5 percent of the general population. The most common fault among senior pedestrians was failing to obey traffic signs and signals.