178080 Older pedestrian safety and time allotted at signalized intersections

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dior Hildebrand, BSN, RN, PHN , County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health, Physical Activity and Senior Health Programs, Los Angeles, CA
Christopher Jarosz, PhD , County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health, Physical Activity and Senior Health Programs, Los Angeles, CA
Tony Kuo, MD, MSHS , County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health, Office of Senior Health, Los Angeles, CA
Although modifications of pedestrian or driver behavior (e.g., walking speed, traffic safety education) are popular approaches, fatalities and injuries related to pedestrian-vehicle crashes remain significant in the U.S., especially among older adults aged 65+ years who live in urban settings. In Los Angeles County, for example, older pedestrians are more likely than younger pedestrians to be struck at intersections (~ 8% vs. 2% fatalities). Recent interest in the built environment has highlighted alternative strategies for addressing this public health problem. Enforcement of crosswalk timing standards, for instance, is one such strategy. This pilot demonstration project examines crosswalk timing at 15 major intersections in Los Angeles County. Data on signal timings, traffic volumes, motorist and pedestrian sight lines, and frequency of vehicle encroachment into crosswalks were collected using a systematic assessment protocol. Findings from the pilot suggest that many intersections were timed for a walking speed of approximately 4.5 feet per second (fps) which is a challenge at any age for crossing a street; this exceeds the 2.8 fps recommended standard by the Americans with Disability Act and other state and local agencies. Because maintaining the ability to cross the street safely is fundamental for older adults to remain independent, reducing the risk for pedestrian-vehicle injuries is critical for promoting healthy aging. Targeted strategies which encourage municipalities to comply with crosswalk timing standards or to promote aging-friendly community design (e.g., refuge islands, increased roadway lighting, etc.) may complement existing efforts in traffic safety education for older adults.

Learning Objectives:
Describe recent trends in walking patterns among older adults and the health benefits of this daily activity. Discuss the relationship between older pedestrian safety and healthy aging in the urban setting. Present preliminary findings from a pilot demonstration project that examined crosswalk timing and environmental influences on older pedestrian safety in Los Angeles County.

Keywords: Injury Prevention, Injury Risk