New York State has the third highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the country, accounting for 21.4 percent of all traffic fatalities in the five upstate counties between 2006 and 2008. This AARP report analyzed data from five of the highest populated counties in New York State to determine the most dangerous intersections, as well as the fatality rates in these areas for older adult pedestrians.
Walking and bicycling offer an alternative to driving for older residents in all states, but when there is a disproportionately high number of pedestrian traffic fatalities involving older adults, as there is in New York State, the safety of these alternatives is questionable. Instead of reducing this healthy mobility option, New York State is focused on fixing the infrastructure that makes walking and bicycling dangerous, such as road design, sidewalk availability, and crosswalk and bicycle lane access.
Other key report findings include:
- With over 60 percent of New York State adult residents found to be overweight or obese in 2008, encouraging bicycling and walking must be part of the state’s complete street agenda. While New York State is not typically considered a sprawling state, some of the new areas tend to be more spread out. A national study examining the relationship between “sprawl and weight” determined that people living in sprawling counties tend to weigh more.
- Older adults are overly represented in traffic fatalities in New York State, making up 25 percent of bicyclist and pedestrian deaths even though they only comprise 19 percent of the total population in the five counties studied.
- The higher fatality rates could be due to one or more of four factors: older pedestrians are less likely to survive a collision, more seniors have stopped driving and started walking, older adults are slower and less likely to get out of the way of an accident, and existing infrastructure does not meet the needs of the older adult population.
How to Use
Local officials and planners can use this data as a reason to conduct a complete streets analysis in their community. Additionally, the case studies presented on the five counties analyzed in New York State are well organized and can serve as good examples.