Report: Nassau dangerous for older pedestrians

Crossing in the middle of the block, this

Crossing in the middle of the block, this pedestrian makes his way across Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square without the aid of a designated cross walk. (Jan. 11, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

Nassau County has the highest death rate for older pedestrians in downstate New York, according to a new report by a transportation advocacy group.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign analyzed federal fatality and census data for each county in downstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from 2008 to 2010.

It found 261 pedestrians age 60 and older were killed on downstate New York roads -- 40 of them in Nassau. The rate of 4.72 deaths per 100,000 people age 60 and older is the biggest in the 12-county downstate region.

Suffolk County recorded 17 fatalities in the age bracket, ranking it 10th of the 12 counties.

The report, which neither adjusts for traffic volumes nor identifies whether the fatalities were county residents, found Litchfield County, Conn., had the worst fatality rate for those 60 and older.

The same analysis for 2007 to 2009 showed 272 pedestrian fatalities in that age group on downstate roads -- the five city boroughs, Long Island, Putnam, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties -- 39 of them in Nassau, which then ranked third behind Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The update confirms older pedestrians make up a disproportionate share of the total pedestrian death rates, the report's authors said.

"The report highlights that our senior population in the region, and particularly on Long Island, is at greater risk of being killed on our region's roads," campaign associate director Ryan Lynch said.

In Nassau, the 60-and-older group makes up 44 percent of pedestrians killed, but only 20.9 percent of the population. Their average fatality rate is more than three times greater than the fatality rate for pedestrians in younger age groups in Nassau.

Those 75 and older account for 7.9 percent of the county's population but make up 25.3 percent of its pedestrian fatalities.

Ryan cited a variety of reasons for the fatalities. "Clearly the infrastructure doesn't work for seniors -- clocks that count down too quickly for the pace of senior citizens . . . wide arterial roads designed to move cars as quickly as possible through downtowns, and an absence of pedestrian islands in the center of these roads which provide refuge for those who are slower."

A spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he had taken several steps in recent years to improve pedestrian safety, including the addition of LED crossing signals with new counters, a community outreach program, a pedestrian safety campaign with the NICE/Veolia Bus Co. and pedestrian safety posters and brochures in English and Spanish throughout the county.

Lynch said a grant program aimed at improving pedestrian safety that had proved "wildly popular" with Island towns and municipalities was slated to be cut at year's end by the state Department of Transportation, under pressure from federal cuts that slashed pedestrian safety funds by one-third this year.

NYSDOT spokesman Bill Reynolds said the state is committed to enhancing pedestrian safety on Long Island.

"We continue to make pedestrian safety improvements at busy intersections and thoroughfares across Long Island," he said. "We will be announcing further safety enhancements in the future."

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