Study: Tristate roads deadlier for older walkers

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) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Getting around by foot is deadlier for tristate seniors than in the rest of the nation, and the risk is twice as high in Nassau as in Suffolk, a new study has found.

Nassau ranked third in the downstate area, averaging 4.56 fatal accidents per 100,000 people who were at least 60 years old from 2009 to 2011, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign report released Wednesday. Suffolk was seventh at 1.96 per 100,000. The U.S. average almost matched Suffolk at 1.98 per 100,000.

The varying results for Long Island's counties reflected Nassau's denser population and greater reliance on mass transit, said Nadine Lemmon, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group.

Further, the Northeast's population is older than in other regions, and many of its roads are antiquated.

"It's definitely true; it doesn't mean we can't do anything about it," Lemmon said.

She recommended improvements to slow drivers, such as canopies of trees and curbs that veer out into the street at corners.

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"It's a psychological thing; I think you tend to go faster on an open road," Lemmon said.

The group also recommended countdown clocks at traffic lights and wider islands between lanes.

Putnam County led downstate with 5.44 seniors killed per 100,000, followed by the Bronx at 4.78. Manhattan at 3.87 trailed Queens at 4.13 and Brooklyn at 4.05.

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The group praised the state Department of Transportation's improvements on the Hempstead Turnpike, which include raised medians and more crosswalks.

Beau Duffy, a transportation department spokesman, said the Hempstead Turnpike overhaul demonstrated a focus on entire systems instead of individual projects. "We're actually looking at corridors; how do the feeder roads contribute to the traffic, how do the pedestrians contribute to traffic." He added: "Safety is our No. 1 priority."

New York's legislature should increase the department's safety budget, the group said, estimating only 2 percent of federal and state dollars are spent making roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Duffy said the department was boosting "investments in safety-related projects" but had no specific figure immediately available.

"With over 1,240 pedestrians killed from 2009 to 2011, more can and should be done to make the tristate's roads safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike," the group said.

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