Seniors at risk on roads


POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hawaii is the most dangerous state for pedestrians ages 65 and older, according to a report by the coalition group Transportation for America.

The state also ranks third in the nation for having the largest proportion of pedestrian deaths of all ages in traffic accidents.

AARP spokesman Bruce Bottorff said the findings are an indication Hawaii has a way to go to making streets safer for older people.

“;It's just becoming increasingly hazardous,”; he said.

Pedestrian deaths in 2007-2008 comprised about 20 percent of all traffic deaths in Hawaii.

Only New York at 22.5 percent and New Jersey at 22.1 percent, had a higher proportion of pedestrians killed. The national average was 11.8 percent.

But among the elderly, Hawaii leads the nation with a rate of 6.97 deaths per 100,000 people 65 years and older. Nationally, the average rate for the same age group was 2.33 pedestrian deaths per 100,000.





        Percentage of pedestrian deaths to total traffic fatalities in 2007-2008:




1. New York22.5%
2. New Jersey22.1%
3. Hawaii20.0%
4. Maryland19.4%
Rhode Island
5. California17.7%
6. Florida16.9%
7. Nevada16.2%
8. Delaware16.0%
9. Arizona14.1%
10. Illinois13.6%
U.S. Average 11.8%


Source: Transportation For America





California with 3.91 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people 65 years and older was second, followed by New York with 3.71 and Rhode Island at 3.40.

The study said older Americans are two-thirds more likely to be killed while walking than those under 65 years of age.

Researchers said while the traffic fatalities have been labeled as “;accidents,”; an overwhelming proportion occur on dangerously designed roads engineered for speeding cars and not for bicyclists, pedestrians and the disabled.

The study said a very small percentage of federal funds is spent on pedestrian and bicycle projects by states, with Alaska spending the most at $9.47 per capita, followed by Vermont and Rhode Island, both at $9.05.

Hawaii ranked 10th in federal spending for bicycle and pedestrian projects at $2.96 per capita.

The study said the higher fatality rate for Americans 65 and older is also because the elderly have a greater risk of death from injury and are less able to get out of the way of vehicles.

The most recent pedestrian fatality in Hawaii involving the elderly happened last week when a 79-year-old woman died of injuries suffered after she was hit in a crosswalk on King Street in Moiliili.

Bottorff said King Street remains a challenge for older walkers because they need more time to cross a number of lanes of traffic.

Bottorff said some places with traffic signals need to have a longer crossing time because of the number of older pedestrians living in the area, such as the “;troublesome”; intersection of Vineyard Boulevard and Nuuanu Avenue.

He said many older people cross Vineyard at Nuuanu to shop at Safeway and Longs Drug Store.

Bottorff said as people age, more of them choose to walk and those 65 and older in Hawaii will increase in number from 184,000 now to 327,000 by 2030.

He said AARP Hawaii has been working with the state and city to improve pedestrian safety and this year was successful in helping to pass a “;complete street law”; that requires accommodation for all users, including pedestrians.

“;We're ahead of the game in that we passed the law,”; Bottorff said. “;Unfortunately, we haven't yet benefited from the full outcome of the law.”;