How seniors can safely walk the streets of Dutchess County
This is one of a series of pedestrian safety columns, prepared by the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA) in conjunction with Emily Dozier, senior planner with the Dutchess County Transportation Council; and Aisha Phillips, senior public health education coordinator with the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health.
Did you know that older adults (age 65-plus) are more likely to die as pedestrians than they are being in a vehicle? Our bodies are much more vulnerable when we’re walking; we aren’t protected by steel, seat belts and air bags. Older adults are particularly vulnerable because their bones are more brittle, eyesight is typically weaker and reaction time is longer.
None of that indicates that we shouldn’t walk; in fact, regular weight-bearing exercise such as walking is critical to building bone density and maintaining fitness and health.
Dutchess County’s Complete Streets Committee (www.dutchessny.gov/CompleteStreets) is working to make it safer to walk, bicycle, drive and ride the bus in Dutchess County. The “Watch Out For Me” campaign (www.dutchessny.gov/WatchOutForMe) includes tips and resources to help you be safer when driving, bicycling or walking.
Walking can be a very different experience depending on where in the county you’re doing it. In the City of Poughkeepsie, two-thirds of pedestrian-vehicle crashes occur at intersections. In suburban and rural areas, the percentage is lower, but it’s important to know how to cross an intersection safely.
As a rule, intersections are a good place to cross because they often have crosswalks and sometimes have pedestrian signals. But drivers may also be turning, so keep your eyes out: Always watch for turning vehicles, especially those turning left, as the driver may not be looking and may not see you.
Before you step off a curb, look left, right and left again. That second look left helps in the event of a vehicle pulling into traffic that wasn’t there the first time you looked. These drivers may be looking for other vehicles and not watching for you.
Take care stepping off the curb into the street. There may be potholes or uneven pavement. Avoid stepping into puddles. Just as drivers are advised not to attempt traveling flooded roads, you shouldn’t step into a puddle where you can’t see how deep it is.
If there is a pedestrian signal, use it to your advantage. Push the button and wait for the Walk signal (walking person). If the Don’t Walk (red hand) is flashing, don’t start to cross. Push the button again and wait for the next Walk signal.
Some pedestrian signals have a countdown timer. This tells you how many seconds are left to cross. Learn how much time you need to cross the streets you use most often.
Even when you have the Walk signal, check left, right and left again, and watch for turning vehicles.
If there is an intersection that needs pedestrian safety improvements, let your local officials know. Depending on who’s responsible for maintenance on any given roadway, they may need to coordinate with New York State or Dutchess County to make improvements.
Golden Living is prepared by Dutchess County Office for the Aging Director Todd N. Tancredi; he can be reached at 845-486-2555, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online, at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.