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More tips for seniors to stay safe while walking

Golden Living

This is the last in a series of pedestrian safety columns that was first printed at the end of 2020, prepared in conjunction with Dutchess County Transportation Council Senior Planner Emily Dozier and Senior Public Health Education Coordinator of the  Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health Aisha Phillips.


In the days before the COVID-19 pandemic, when we met with seniors for presentations at Office for the Aging (OFA) Senior Friendship Centers, we discussed five risk factors for older adults to think about when walking: intersections, visibility, vehicles backing up, the physical environment and weather, and personal health. With in-person presentations still not possible for now, we’ve adapted to new necessities. For the final item in this series, we’ve focused on watching for vehicles backing up and hitting a person behind them. It’s a common type of crash that we don’t often think about. 

“Backing unsafely” was cited in almost 10% of all the reported pedestrian-vehicle crashes in Dutchess County over the past five years. It’s the third most commonly cited factor in pedestrian crashes, after driver inattention and failure to yield the right-of-way. Since some crashes in parking lots and driveways are not reported or not reported accurately, the true number of crashes related to unsafe backing is likely larger.

Older adults are prone to this kind of crash, both as a driver and as a pedestrian. As a driver, it is often hard to see behind your vehicle, especially if you have limited mobility in your neck and upper back. This makes it tough to check for people behind your car. Many newer model cars have rear-facing cameras that activate when backing up, but those aren’t a cure-all.

It can be challenging to walk through parking lots, as drivers are entering and exiting parking spaces. You may not be able to jump out of the way like you once could.

What can you do to prevent these types of crashes? Here are some tips:

• Check behind your vehicle. Do this before getting into your car, as well as before backing up. If you have a hard time turning your neck and head, talk to your doctor or other caregivers about modifications you can make to your vehicle to improve your visibility. When parking, back into a parking space when possible, or find a “pull-through” space, to improve your field of vision when it comes time to drive away.

• Be alert in parking lots. Whether you’re driving or on foot, don’t assume that drivers are watching for you. If you see a vehicle with its white reverse lights on, steer clear! When walking, use walkways and marked crosswalks wherever they exist.

• Be cautious at driveways. Treat a driveway like an intersection. When you’re walking near a driveway, check to see if a vehicle is backing out, or turning in.

• Avoid walking near parked cars. Don’t cross a street between parked cars — they may be about to move. Avoid walking behind a parked car, as the driver may not see you.

For more information, check out Dutchess County’s “Watch Out For Me” webpage at www.dutchessny.gov/WatchOutForMe.


Golden Living is prepared by Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA) Director Todd N. Tancredi. He can  be reached at  845-486-2555, ofa@dutchessny.gov or online, at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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