Older Pedestrians Have Safety Concerns

older pedestriansAs people age, their mental and physical skills start to decline. They may notice it takes longer to think through tasks or conquer physical hurdles. This becomes an extremely important safety concern as the elderly walk down the road. 

Pedestrian injuries can result from anything ranging from bicycle accidents to a motor vehicle and everything in between. Someone who has been hit by a car is prone to developing numerous catastrophic personal injuries and could even suffer a wrongful death. Because of this, there are strict laws governing pedestrian safety on the roads. As a Sacramento personal injury lawyer, I've come to realize that older pedestrians are a particularly vulnerable population.

Elderly Pedestrians are Vulnerable

As people age, their bodies start to both slow down and break down, making it easier for elderly pedestrians to suffer traumatic injuries while crossing the street. These injuries include femur fracturespelvic fractures, and traumatic brain injuries. A recent study analyzed a large number of the changes that people’s bodies go through as they age.

Sensory Issues

People’s bodies start to struggle with sensory issues. There are a number of visual concerns such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration that can make it difficult for older individuals to see. They cannot make decisions quickly and wind up taking a long time to cross the street. Hearing loss is also a major issue. A significant number of elderly individuals suffer hearing loss, making it difficult for them to hear an oncoming car or bike. This increases the chance that they may get hit by a car. Even when their eyes and ears do serve them well, people’s brains do not process information as quickly when they get older. This decrease in processing speeds has been demonstrated in prior studies to be of major concern when elderly individuals cross the street. This increases the risk of falling. Furthermore, these sensory changes have been objectively examined by the UFOV test in the past. This is a computer exam where individuals are tested on how quickly they can interpret and make decisions based on a visual scene. Elderly individuals tend to take longer.

Physical Problems

People’s bodies physically start to break down as well. There is a decline in the muscle mass and strength of elderly individuals which are only further compounded by an increase in body fat and a decrease in bone mass. This means that the individual's body no longer can support them as well. It takes them longer to move their limbs, rise from a sitting position, and sit back down when they desire to do so. Elderly spines start to slouch over in a posture known as kyphosis. This makes it harder to walk and climb stairs, making it difficult to cross the street quickly. Elderly folks with arthritis are at a further disadvantage when it comes to crossing the street. This inflammatory process makes it painful to move limbs back and forth in the manner necessary to cross the street.

Executive Functioning

It has been proven that elderly individuals also tend to struggle more with executive functioning. This is the term given to the skills necessary to receive, process, interpret, and make judgment calls based on the information presented to an individual. This is one of the reasons why elderly individuals may start to cross the street in areas where there isn’t a crosswalk or in locations that obviously aren’t appropriate given the number of cars on the road. This decline in inhibition has contributed to an increase in the number of falls in the elderly population when compared to the average population. Furthermore, a decline in executive functioning means that elderly individuals may struggle to make rapid adjustments to changes in circumstances in the middle of crossing the street.

Safety Programs to Help Elderly Pedestrians

There are several options for reducing the number of falls and injuries that elderly individuals experience while crossing the street. These include outreach programs and changing the design of the roads to favor elderly pedestrians more. While a systemic educational program directed at every elderly individual might be challenging, most people go to the doctor regularly. Elderly individuals should be instructed on how to improve flexibility and balance to try and mitigate some of the issues that have been witnessed in the physical department. Increased signage at intersections could also help to improve how elderly pedestrians cross the street.

When it comes to road safety, the environment should be made more conducive to these individuals. The sidewalks must be made wider and should have obstacles or hazards removed. This means removing leaves when they fall on the ground and cleaning up snow before it can melt and freeze over into ice. There should also be more chairs on the sidewalk so that elderly individuals can stop and rest. This will help keep elderly pedestrians safe on the roads.

If you've suffered an injury as a pedestrian, contact an experienced Sacramento personal injury lawyer.

Sacramento Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Pedestrian Accident Lawyer. The elderly are particularly vulnerable as pedestrians walking down the road. Anyone who has been involved in a pedestrian accident should reach out to me for free, friendly advice. Give me a call at 916.921.6400 or 800.4044.5400.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.20.20]

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