Safe Streets for Seniors – New York City

One of the great things about aging in New York is that you’re never more than a few blocks’ walk from anything you could ever want.  Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems, and crossing a busy street can be a real challenge for people with sensory or mobility impairments.

The NYC Department for the Aging recently conducted a study and found that pedestrians 65 and older make up nearly 35 percent of all traffic fatalities, despite being only 13 percent of the city’s population.

Since 2008, transit officials have worked to improve particularly dangerous intersections in senior-heavy neighborhood through the Safe Streets for Seniors program, which has been used to modify traffic signals, walk times, sidewalk width and install pedestrian islands in 25 high-traffic areas.  For a complete list of these areas and the changes they have seen, follow the link above. For further reference, you can compare these Safe Street improvement areas to the following article’s 2008-2010 map of pedestrian fatalities by age.

Take a look at the “Before” and “After” photos below to see the pedestrian  improvements that were made on Creston Avenue:

Creston Avenue Before                     Creston Avenue After

While this program has been somewhat successful – senior pedestrian fatalities have seen a drop from 58 in 2008 to 53 in 2014, pedestrian safety remains very much an individual responsibility.

With that in mind, I wanted to run through some important safety advice from our clinical staff and around the web for people on foot, in a wheelchair or using a walker or Rollator.

On Foot

  • Stay on the sidewalk until you have a crossing signal, don’t move off the curb in anticipation
  • It’s safest to wait for a “fresh” walk signal, rather than trying to beat a flashing light
  • The golden rule: Look left, right and then left again before crossing
  • Be visible: brighter clothing can make it easier for drivers to see you, also don’t be shy about putting a hand, umbrella or cane up in the air to ensure drivers can see you over parked cars
  • Be extra visible: in neighborhoods where there are fewer streetlights and pedestrians, consider carrying a small LED flashlight with a strobe feature
  • Most pedestrian-car accidents occur when drivers make left turns without checking for pedestrians. Be extra careful around turning cars and do not trust drivers to always signal before turning
  • If walking with a  companion or caregiver, set your own pace to avoid over exertion and do not hesitate to call a break if you begin to feel tired

In a Wheelchair

  • Don’t get dumped: be sure to strap into your chair, that way you are not thrown if going down a steep curb cut
  • Front seat drivers: If you are being pushed by a companion or caregiver, be sure to call out potholes or sidewalk cracks as you approach them
  • When waiting for a light, you should always engage your brakes to avoid sliding into traffic or being bumped by a passerby
  • Raise a flag – attaching a small flag post to your chair makes it that much easier to be seen over parked cars – just try to avoid divisive logos like a Yankee flag in Queens, or a Red Sox flag anywhere within the state
  • Have an emergency plan – for powered wheelchairs, be sure to know how to release the emergency brake on your chair. If you run out of power in the middle of a crossing, you may need to instruct a stranger on how to disengage this lock quickly to get out of traffic
  • Plan your path – while finding a corner with a safe curb cut should come naturally, don’t forget to look across the street and evaluate the curb cut you will need to climb. These cuts are sometimes at odd angles and you might need to leave the pedestrian crossing in order to climb them

Walkers and Rollators

  • While Rollators are typically faster than walkers when it comes to covering ground, they require much more coordination from the user and are less stable on slippery streets
  • Walker maintenance: The flat pads on walkers are key to stability and should be checked for wear and replaced as needed
  • Rollator Maintenance: The brakes on Rollators are a key part of their design, but wear out with use. These can be replaced inexpensively at most medical supply stores and some pharmacies

The next time you take a walk through your neighborhood, you may want to do an inventory of some of the biggest dangers you face.  The city is actively listening for these concerns and a call to 311 about a cracked sidewalk, pothole, or faulty street light may be all it takes to save a life.  This helpful checklist can aid in identifying hazards you may not have thought to consider.

SelectCare takes pedestrian safety seriously and our staff of compassionate caregivers stand ready to help you or a loved one make the most of life in New York.  To learn more about how you could benefit from our services, call SelectCare today.