Intersections can be obstacles to overcome for older pedestrians.
The study of risk factors related to the environment and to street crossing behaviours in older pedestrians will help to protect them from accident and injury.
All too often, headlines such as this one bring a lump to our throats: “Grandmother struck by vehicle at intersection”. The familiarity of these statements reflects the frequency with which serious and fatal road accidents involving seniors occur: people aged 65 and over represented 35% of pedestrian deaths in Canada between 2004 and 2006, while they made up only 13% of the population.
This research will help equip policymakers to better protect this vulnerable population.
Marie-Soleil Cloutier, a professor at INRS, is working on the prevention of elderly pedestrian injury by examining pedestrian behaviour at street crossings in relation to the built environment. Not seeking to blame or victimize, her team is observing and analyzing. “A variety of factors related to street design and to aging come into play when an older pedestrian crosses an intersection, and it is important to properly understand these in order to act.” Her analysis highlights the influence of the impairments and risk perception of seniors. Estimating the time needed to cross a given distance is no easy task when walking speed is reduced, or when vision or hearing is diminished.
Moreover, the layout of streets and arteries contributes to the incidence of road accidents: bus stops, bicycle lanes, pedestrian lights and median strips are all elements that can help or hinder a safe street crossing. The death of a senior in the summer of 2016 following a collision at an intersection that had been redesigned to make it safer clearly indicates that the multiple factors surrounding pedestrian safety are poorly understood. Québec’s population is aging, and elderly pedestrians will continue to increase in number. Professor Cloutier’s research will help equip policymakers to better protect this vulnerable population.
Marie-Soleil Cloutier, Institut national de la recherche scientifique – Urbanisation Culture Société Centre
Deposit of the research report: August 2016