Senior Citizens and Pedestrian Accidents

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September 28, 2015
Edward Smith

pedestrian sign

An alarming 23% – 25% of all pedestrian fatalities in the United States involve senior citizens.  While the overall amount of pedestrian deaths has slightly decreased in the past decades, no change has been seen in regards to senior citizens fatalities in pedestrian vs. auto accidents.  Elderly members of our community continue to have the highest death rate of all pedestrians.  This has been true every year since 1975.

Many studies have been conducted in an attempt to understand why the pedestrian fatality statistics is so high among senior citizens. As a group, many seniors are no longer able to drive, which may account in part, for why they are a larger part of the population walking on public roadways.  Others point out that many seniors are advised by their medical providers and relatives to increase walking for health reasons, such as to decrease cholesterol, lower weight, increase balance and muscle strength and to keep themselves emotionally healthy.

Physical limitations may also play a role in the this skewed statistic.  Some elderly ones have limited vision and hearing and thus may be less alert to the traffic around them.  Limitations in peripheral vision may prevent elderly ones from seeing oncoming traffic.  Additionally, overall vision changes due to the aging process may make it difficult to  judge traffic distance and speed. Pre-existing spinal and neck issues can cause some senior citizens to become permanently stooped over or without the ability to turn or lift their neck/head  to properly see traffic conditions around them.  Additionally, some seniors may have smaller physical frames making them less visible to motorists.

Drivers may also inadequately take into consideration that elderly pedestrians may be slower in crossing a street and drivers may fail to react accordingly when slowing or braking.

Senior citizens should by all means keep up physical activity such as walking as the health and emotional benefits outweigh the risks of an auto vs pedestrian accident.  But, armed with this knowledge, senior citizens may want to take precautions to  keep themselves from becoming a statistic.

  • Make eye contact as much as possible with drivers.
  • Avoid trusting the system. Many kind drivers who wave us on may lead us to ‘expect’ such behavior from all drivers. Don’t!
  • Use marked crossings if possible when crossing streets.
  • Carry a flashlight if walking in the early morning or dusk and/or use a headlamp.
  • Avoid wearing black and other dark colors.
  • Wear reflective clothing such as a reflective vest.
  • If possible, exercise or walk in places set aside for this purpose.
  • If walking on streets, use sidewalks as much as possible.
  • Elderly ones of short stature may wish to carry a lightweight, small, reflective orange flag to help makes them ‘visible’ when crossing in front of high vehicles such as buses and SUV’s.
  • When there are no sidewalks,  walk facing traffic.
  • If walking for health, get a buddy.  Two people are more visible than one!

The pedestrians increased ‘vulnerability’ requires motorists exercise great caution.  Yet, inattentive and egocentric motorists on the roadways is often the biggest underlying factor in accidents involving elderly pedestrians.  Negligence and distraction still remain the root of  senior citizen and pedestrian collisions.  If you find that you are a senior who was hit by a car, don’t allow the insurance company to bully you into feeling like the accident was your fault.

My office, Edward A Smith Law Offices, have been representing pedestrians injured in an auto accident since the 1980’s.  We have seen the toll these impacts can have on a person and we pride ourselves in obtaining successful settlements in pedestrian vs. auto claims.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a pedestrian accident, please call me right away at (916) 921-6400.  When you call, I will provide you with free, friendly advice at no obligation to you.  You may also call us toll free from outside the 916 area at (800) 404-5400.

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