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.