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Precautions to protect pedestrians during 'fall back' time outlined

On Thursday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said “falling back” in autumn to lengthen the morning hours of daylight has an unfortunate consequence, as data shows the number of pedestrian accidents rises in that period. Last year, for instance, the second lowest number of these collisions occurred in July with 49; that figure rose to 95 in November and hit 102 in December, Nassau County statistics showed. The clocks "fell back" one hour on Nov. 3 and will "spring forward" on March 8. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Falling back in autumn, which shortens the afternoon hours of daylight, can have deadly consequences, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Thursday, as data show the number of pedestrian accidents rises in that period. 

Last year, for instance, the second-lowest number of these incidents occurred in July with 49, but that figure rose to 95 in November and hit 102 in December, Nassau County statistics showed.

Daylight saving time ended Nov. 3 when the clocks "fell back." They will "spring forward" on March 8, 2020.

Curran presented the data at a news conference held next to Oceanside’s Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital, joined by the county police commissioner and two of the hospital's top doctors who care for these victims. She summarized some of the improvements the county is making, from basics such as using highly reflective materials and installing countdown clocks for pedestrians, to a planned study of how best to fill gaps in the public transportation system.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had no immediate response to a request for information on the topic in that county.

Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder urged both drivers and pedestrians to be extra cautious — and never to combine texting with driving or walking.

“These accidents are preventable; please, please be safe,” Curran said, urging anyone walking to put their cellphone in their pocket and anyone driving to put it in the backseat. “Situational awareness can save your life.”

Ryder pointed out another reason both drivers and pedestrians can be distracted this time of year: possibly because they are thinking about their Christmas list or holiday preparations.

“This is the time of year when you want to celebrate and enjoy the holidays,” Ryder said. “You don’t want to become that statistic.”

To make the roads safer, Nassau also is improving signs, signals and pavement markings and has installed “rapidly flashing beacons” at three sites that lack traffic signals. 

In the last two years, 129 signals for pedestrians were upgraded; devices that show drivers their speed were installed in 32 school zones; and 720 crosswalks were improved. 

Nassau has issued a request for proposals for a shared mobility management plan to examine how traffic flows for all users — from motorists to cyclists — and create an overall strategy to integrate them, Curran said.

The pedestrians most likely to be struck are children aged 5 to 9 and senior citizens,  the officials said, stressing the public must be educated about these dangers. 

Dr. Joshua Kugler, the hospital’s emergency services chair, summed up what it is like to care for these victims who are suffering from avoidable injuries:  “It’s traumatic.”

About a third of these accidents involve alcohol or another intoxicant, he said.

About 20% of the pedestrians the hospital cares for are critically hurt, said Dr. Alexander Axelrad, the trauma medical director. “It’s life-changing phenomenon ... many of these patients cannot go back to normal society.”

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