Seniors, Wellness Walking, and Crosswalk Safety

Benefits abound for people over the age of 60 who walk regularly. Incorporating walking into your life has the potential to enhance your heart health, brain health, and mental health. A common recommendation is to walk at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a moderate (but safe) pace. If you are like many walkers, you may enjoy walking along sidewalks in your community, which includes having to cross streets safely and regularly.

The need to cross streets at crosswalks is a vital safety practice. Let’s assume for our discussion today that you are committed to cross streets at designated crosswalks. Doing so is far safer than crossing in the middle of the street. You do need to keep in mind that while crossing at crosswalks is significantly safer than doing so elsewhere on a street or roadway, using crosswalks is not 100 percent safe. Risks remain in regard to crossing at crosswalks.

In this article, we provide you some basic information about crosswalk safety. The ultimate objective of this discussion is to encourage you to be as vigilant and careful as possible when you do use a crosswalk to get from one side of the street to another.

Crosswalk Safety Overview

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 42 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur on roadways that lacked proper crosswalks. This statistic alone underscores the vital importance of crosswalks when it comes to pedestrian safety.

An additional 21 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred when a crosswalk was available, but the pedestrian did not use it to cross the street. Overall, 9 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred in cross walks. The primary causes of these deaths were:

  • Pedestrian cross against the light
  • Pedestrian failing to look both ways
  • Motorist ran a light or stop sign

In the end, while pedestrians do get injured and even killed in crosswalks, the injury and death rates are significantly lower than if a person crossed a roadway at a point beyond a designated crosswalk.

Breaking Down the Numbers: Annual Pedestrian Deaths in the USA

The number of people who lose their lives in pedestrian accidents that occurred where a crosswalk was not provided on a roadway is grim. Between 1,700 and 1,800 pedestrians are killed annually in accidents on roadways where no crosswalk existed.

Not far behind this sad statistic is the number of pedestrians who chose not to use a crosswalk and ended up losing their lives crossing the street at an improper location. Between 1,400 and 1,500 pedestrians die in this manner each year.

About 500 pedestrians die in accidents while they are using crosswalks. Pedestrians most at risk of being hit, injured, and even killed by a vehicle while crossing a street are children under the age of 16 and senior citizens.

The most hazardous time to be a pedestrian at risk of a roadway accident is between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. Weekends are the most hazardous during this time period.

Common Types of Pedestrian Injuries

Each year across the United States, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 pedestrians are injured in accidents. Again, the most significant percentages of these pedestrians are younger children and people over the age of 60. The most frequently occurring types of injuries sustained by a pedestrian in an accident include:

  • Pelvis injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Lacerations

Pelvis injuries: Broken bones and other pelvic injuries can be devastating and even debilitating. They can prove very difficult to treat, particularly when sustained by senior citizens. Pelvic injuries are so common in pedestrian accident cases due to the shape of the average car hood, typically hitting in just the right spot when a motor vehicle comes into contact with a pedestrian.

Internal injuries: Internal injuries are also a common result of a pedestrian accident. In some instances, internal injuries can be difficult to identify, let alone, treat. Rib fractures, brain bleeds, and injuries to inner organs require immediate treatment. Some of these injuries may not present obvious symptoms at first while a pedestrian is experiencing an adrenaline “high.”

Bone fractures: The force experienced during a pedestrian accident can break bones quickly and severely. These bone fractures can be found in just about any part of the body, with some requiring surgery and prolonged physical therapy to encourage proper healing. In some cases, proper healing is evasive (despite the best medical care) and a person ends up disabled as the result of a pedestrian accident. This tends to happen more often with senior pedestrian accident victims.

Lacerations: Lacerations are caused by sharp edges or glass cutting the skin during a pedestrian accident. Lacerations oftentimes do cause long-term damage, disfiguration, or even death. Typically, lacerations will require stitches and continuing medical attention to ensure no infection is present following a pedestrian accident.

8 Pedestrian Safety Tips From the National Highway Safety Administration

The National Highway Safety Administration is charged with enhancing the safety of people using roadways in the United States. This includes motorists but also pedestrians. The National Highway Safety Administration offers these eight tried and tested tips to enhance your safety as a pedestrian:

  • Follow the rules of the road as a pedestrian and obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.
  • Embrace walking as a healthy form of transportation. In other words, get up, get out, and get moving.

Most pedestrian accidents involving seniors can be avoided in the first instance. By paying attention to the information presented to you in this article, you can significantly enhance the overall safety of your wellness walking regimen.