The hazards of a neighbourhood walk

It is often the elderly who don’t judge the speed of the traffic properly

  • Mar. 15, 2013 1:00 p.m.
The hazards of a neighbourhood walk

As spring begins to warm the air and everyone is anxious to get out and get a bit more exercise, the roads are going to have a few more hazardous conditions other than snow, rain or cell-distracted drivers.

With the warmer weather comes pedestrians, young and old, and each presents it challenges to unwary drivers.

Young pedestrians tend to be impulsive, suddenly showing up out of nowhere and dashing from between cars, or zipping around a corner on a skateboard or bike. They may have music plugged in and be completely zoned out to the traffic around them. Give them a friendly beep to warn them of your presence and you’re likely to get the royal bird flipped at you.

It’s sometimes an exercise in road rage management to drive down a street with youthful pedestrians.

Just as challenging, although much less likely to flip you the bird, is the elderly population. Impulsive is hardly the word you would use to describe the decision-making process and ambulatory speed of seniors but unpredictability remains a factor. You can’t always be sure if they’re going to take the plunge into an intersection, on foot, with a walker, or on a scooter, or if they are going to hold up the intersection long after the light has changed and traffic begins to charge forward in an expected pattern.

It is becoming more common to hear of elderly pedestrians being struck by vehicles. Such accidents often occur in wide open areas and the drivers are not breaking any rules or travelling at excessive speeds.

It is often the elderly who don’t judge the speed of the traffic properly or step off the curb without fully appreciating the traffic situation around them. Occasionally, they are simply caught in the middle of an intersection when a driver is proceeding through a green light.

Doctors are constantly reminding us all of the importance of exercise. For the elderly, this message is as important as anyone and a good walk every day can add years to their lives.

But as traffic volumes rise on city streets, as drivers become more distracted and less patient, as aging pedestrians become less reactive and less mobile, the neighbourhood walk may be more of a hazard than a benefit.

If a neighbourhood walk can be restricted to one side of the street so that a roadway does not have to be crossed, that’s a strategy to help.

Using local parks or walking pathways also minimize road time.

If roads must be crossed, then seniors should be certain to always cross at intersections and be sure there is plenty of time to make it before heading into the intersection.

Still, a lot of senior pedestrian safety falls on the shoulders of drivers, in much the same way as children’s safety does.

It is incumbent upon us as drivers to have our wits about us, to maintain a slow speed in residential areas. and never to assume that a pedestrian is going to make a decision we think they should make.  It is always wise to keep your head on a swivel when the walkers and scooters hit the roads once again.


Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare.

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