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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 15, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
Older Pedestrian Fatalities in New Jersey, 1999-2000


 

        TRENTON – Unmarried men age 75 and older are at greatest risk of being struck and killed by a motor vehicle while walking.  Most senior pedestrians age 65 and older are within a mile of home when the accident occurs, according to a report released today by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

Older Pedestrian Fatalities in New Jersey, 1999-2000 examines fatal accidents among pedestrians age 65 and older.  The department’s Center for Health Statistics report is the latest in the Topics in Health Statistics series, which covers a wide range of public health issues.  The full report series may be viewed at http://www.state.nj.us/health/chs/topics.htm. 

“Pedestrian death rates are highest in the population over 65 years-of-age, even higher than among children.  As the population ages, the number of pedestrian deaths among older adults is likely to increase,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.  “Understanding of  the risk factors for pedestrian fatalities is important to guide prevention efforts to increase pedestrian safety.”   

In 1999 and 2000, there were 95 pedestrian fatalities among seniors, and an additional 465 non-fatal injuries.  The report examines the relationship between a number of factors – including age, gender, marital status, municipality population density, and distance from home – and the risk of pedestrian fatality among seniors. The report found that:

·         60 percent of fatally injured pedestrians are male, though men make up only 40 percent of the older adult population.

·         Unmarried older pedestrians are at greater risk of fatal injury than married persons.

·         Fatality rates are lowest among persons in their late sixties and highest in persons age 85 years and older.

·         77 percent of all older adult pedestrian deaths occurred within one mile of home.

·         Half of all incidents occurred in four densely populated counties – Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union -- while 33 percent of the state’s population lives in those counties.

·         Within those counties, 76 percent of deaths occurred in densely populated municipalities with more than 5,000 people per square mile.

Many of the findings are consistent with those of other studies conducted nationally that link increased risk with advancing age, unmarried status, male gender and population density of residential area.  Longer reaction time, slower walking speed, increased frailty, and hearing and vision impairments all put the elderly at increased risk of injury, the department’s study notes.

          According to the study, it is not clear why older adult deaths are more likely to occur close to home.

          “This study suggests that very short or routine pedestrian trips place some seniors at risk.  Elderly adults who are frail or have limited physical abilities should find a safe location for exercise walking, and may need assistance with daily errands,” said Katherine Hempstead, director of the department’s Center for Health Statistics and one of the study’s authors.

          The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Health and Senior Services (DHSS) are participating in a unique collaboration with the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the Motor Vehicle Commission, AAA, AARP, and the county offices on aging in an initiative to improve senior mobility, safety and health.

     The New Jersey Seniors - A Driving Force for Health and Safety program will improve the safety of intersections to make them more senior-friendly, and provide older adults with health and safety education.

   The program began this past June, when seniors participated on a Safety Impact Team that examined an intersection in Bergen County.  The team – which included law enforcement and state and local transportation engineers -- conducted an in-depth review of the location, identified safety issues and proposed location improvements.  Safety Impact Teams will examine other intersections this fall and next spring.

   Assessment results are announced at a health and safety event for each location. Attendees are able to speak with and receive information from representatives of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the Motor Vehicle Commission, AAA, AARP and the local county office on aging in addition to the DOT and DHSS.

          For more information on pedestrian safety, please visit the New Jersey Department of Transportation web site at: http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/pedsafety.

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