Elders and senior citizens need to be very careful while walking and crossing streets. They account for nearly half of all pedestrian fatalities. Rita tells us the safeguards that seniors must take, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Senior citizens account for almost half of all pedestrian fatalities, meaning that seniors are almost twice as likely to be killed by an automobile as members of the general public. As a group, senior citizens are particularly dependent on safe streets for walking because many of them no longer drive.
Who do we regard as elderly or older road users?
- Generally people of 65 years and older are considered to be elderly.
- Rigid age boundaries do not take into consideration the fact that ageing is a process that does not start at the same age for each and every individual, nor does it progress at the same pace.
- We need to acknowledge that there are large differences in driving skills between people of the same age, as well as in their physical and mental abilities.
Factors contributing to risk level of older road users
Most elderly pedestrian fatalities result from inattention or carelessness, medical conditions or the effects of medication. Therefore, it is important that elderly pedestrians take street crossing seriously and appreciate the dangers. It is important for elderly pedestrians to appreciate that there is a very serious risk posed even if they are hit by a relatively small vehicle. Although most elderly pedestrian fatalities occur during the daytime, it is important to note that evening pedestrian incidents often involve alcohol on the part of the pedestrian. Thus elderly pedestrians should be particularly careful not to get too intoxicated if they are going to be walking near traffic.
Because peripheral vision diminishes as people get older, reflexes slow and the ability to move quickly and in an agile manner decrease, it can take longer to cross road and, it is harder to deal with situations that require prompt evasive action. Also, because eyesight and hearing often become less acute the judgment of traffic distance and speed can become less accurate. Therefore, elderly pedestrians should allow themselves plenty of time to cross the road. They should make eye contact with drivers if possible to ensure that they are noticed. They should use marked crossings if possible. Also, it is important to stop before crossing the road so as to allow time to check for traffic and make appropriate decisions.
Road Safety Measures Aimed at Improving Safety
- Family members and physicians should be proactive in ensuring the safety of their loved ones on the road, especially if they are afflicted or impaired with a condition that may hinder driving abilities.
- Friends should flag a friend, who might be driving unsafely and pose a risk to other road users.
- Family members might be in the best position to convince the elderly to go for a medical assessment and check on the important physical abilities required for driving.
- Education can include programs to train the elderly to walk safely.
- Road safety programs should promote safe walking practices along with training in judging speed and distances of approaching vehicles, making appropriate decisions in complex traffic environments.
Road Safety Tips for the Elderly
Accidents involving the elderly frequently happen because of their diminished sensory and motor skills. But this doesn’t mean that senior citizens cannot enjoy the use of roads. Following these road safety tips can help the elderly to be safe on the road:
- Raising the hand while crossing a road is a good way to alert motorists.
- Be alert for inattentive drivers, even when you are walking across allotted pedestrian crossing areas.
- Always remember to walk on footpaths and walkways.
- Use pedestrian crossings like overhead bridges, underpasses, zebra crossings, and signalised traffic lights.
- Avoid distractions such as talking to others, cellular phones etc. while on the road.
- Get assistance from someone if you’re going out. Don’t stand too far out when waiting for a bus or taxi.
- Never cross at road bends, where you cannot see oncoming vehicles and where they cannot see you. Cross from an area where you have a full view of both sides of the road.
- Don’t cross between stationary vehicles as these could move forward and run you over.
- Take extra care at night or in bad weather and try to avoid driving at these times.
- Check with your doctor or chemist about the effects of any prescribed or purchased medicines as they can affect driving.
Pictures from the internet.
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Rita Bhattacharjee is a communications consultant with extensive experience in managing corporate and internal communications for companies across diverse industries, including non-profit organizations. She is the co-founder of Mission Arogya and Arogya HomeCare and has recently relocated from the US to India to channel her skills towards social entrepreneurship to increase awareness and reduce disparity in public health. She also writes poetry, some of which have been published in reputed international journals.