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Older New Jersey pedestrians at higher risk of death, report says

Many people in New Jersey opt to get from point A to point B on foot rather than in a car, either for exercise or simply because they don't drive. Among this pedestrian population are senior citizens, and their numbers are rapidly growing as older baby boomers approach their 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, these pedestrians also make up a high-risk group. According to a report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the risk of being seriously injured or killed as a pedestrian rises with age.

Pedestrians over the age of 60 are 2.4 times more likely to be killed in a car accident; people older than 75 are three times as likely, according to the report. From the years 2008 through 2010, people over 60 accounted for one-third of all pedestrians killed in accidents in the Tri-State area.

Why are senior walkers being killed at such a high rate? The report surmises that older people tend to be less agile and may not be able to get out of the way of a car heading toward them. Add that to the fact that pedestrians in their 60s and older may not be able to fully cross an intersection in the time that a green light or walk signal allows. Elderly pedestrians may also have a hard time hearing approaching traffic.

The growing number of deaths among older pedestrians is a significant problem, especially considering that 17 percent of the population is over 60 years old. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign points out that almost any intersection can be made more senior-friendly, but drivers also have a responsibility to keep an eye out for pedestrians of any age. Whether the walker is a child, grandparent or young adult, he or she has the right to expect a basic level of safety while traveling on foot. Drivers who fail to exercise care and consequently strike a pedestrian may find themselves defendants in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's family.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Older pedestrians at greatest risk of being struck," Aug. 15, 2012

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