Southern Brooklyn

Just How Safe Are The Streets For Seniors? In Brooklyn, Not Very

East 14th and Ave. Z
East 14th and Ave. Z

In New York City, the streets are dangerous. If you are young and have all your faculties, sometimes you forget how important it is to be able to sprint or hop at the last second to dodge a speeding car or step out of the way of a bicycle. These feats of agility are not always an option to many seniors, and as a result, they are most at risk for getting killed on the streets. A study released by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign revealed that people over 60 years old are disproportionately at risk of being killed in collisions with vehicles while walking.

The key findings by the report paint clearly how in danger seniors are when they go out walking:3

  • 413 older pedestrians (60 years and older) have been killed in collisions with cars in our region from 2009 through 2011.
  • Older pedestrians in the tri-state region represent 18.7 percent of the population, but account for 33.3 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.
  • Older pedestrians in the tri-state region are more than 2.2 times as likely to be killed in a collision with a vehicle than those under 60.
  • Almost 60 percent of older pedestrian fatalities occurred on arterial roads [the most dangerous roads].

For Brooklyn specifically, 51 seniors died in accidents between 2009-2011, tying us with Queens for the highest number of deaths in the Downstate area. More importantly, that boils down to a fatality rate of 4.05 per 100,000 seniors, making the area the 8th most dangerous spot for seniors in the entire Tri-State area. Read that again: out of every 100,000 seniors living in Brooklyn, more than four will die after being hit by a vehicle. That could be your grandma, your grandpa, an aunt or uncle or a parent. Or you.

The good news here is that the number of seniors killed in collisions has actually decreased since the last study was conducted, covering the years 2006-2008. Brooklyn was ranked the 4th most dangerous in that last study. Still, seniors are still getting killed at a disproportionate rate to the rest of the population.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has suggested a number of general solutions to address the problem, such as installing more curb ramps, making sure cross-walks are well marked, increasing pedestrian crossing islands and installing pedestrian countdown clocks.

However the problem gets tackled, the number one thing everyone can do to reduce street fatalities is to drive responsibly and carefully, an otherwise obvious observation that Southern Brooklyn drivers can’t seem to wrap their heads around.

Comment policy


  1. I am not a senior, but do have mobility issues and am not as fast as I used to be. Crossing Nostrand Ave is VERY dangerous.. It is not always feasible to walk to the corner to cross as those Ave. blocks are VERY long. I try to be as careful as I can and always wait till there are no cars. However, I have experienced drivers speeding up when they see elderly people crossing and honking their horns which only startles them further! Also, drivers pull out of spots quickly or back up when people are in their way.. Drivers need to have more patience and compassion for people and not be in such a hurry to beat the light!

  2. Ok so drives need to have more patience and compassion for people …when will herd stop jay walking and crossing streets when its not their light, when will people stop standing on the corners of the streets when cars turning you can almost run someone foot over or hit with a hood while making a turn

  3. All true, but: as a driver, you are the one inside a 3-ton machine with A/C, soft seats, etc. It is already a position of big privilege. So give them pedestrians a little extra break – you just might grow old enough one day to be “on the other side”!

  4. Wow with those stats someone needs to do something about those killing machines. If we can save one life its worth it.

  5. Are you serious, punk? Just because a pedestrian is breaking the law, doesn’t mean a driver should not be braking his car!

  6. I find it actually easier to cross streets against the light, when there are no cars coming. If it’s possible, that is. At least I know the cars are coming straight on. When I have the walk sign, the nuts whiz in front of me, an inch behind me, through me if I’m not careful. I like their new left turn – it’s not a turn; it’s a diagonal move through first one opposite lane, then the other. Classic!
    I think some of these drivers actually may not know the rules. One time I was crossing the street, I had the walk sign, a lady making a left stopped right in front of me. Her window was closed so I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she was yelling in a very animated fashion, and pointing at the traffic light. I assume that she honestly believes she had the right of way.

  7. Let me add another joke from my day, probably Henny Youngman: Don’t drive too carefully – the life you save may be my mother-in-laws.

  8. Yes, he’s serious — and I agree… Someone gets hit by a car j-walking, and it’s automatically the drivers fault, even when there was no wrong doing on the drivers side.

    A driver isn’t breaking the law by making a turn, but when there are people standing on the streets of the corner, then I have no sympathy when they get hit by a car. And for any intellectual individual, you should know corner spots often have bad accidents and you should even stand further back on the sidewalk to avoid injury!

    While a driver should certainly practice caution, it is also the responsibility of the pedestrian to exercise the same caution. Also, just because it’s your light to walk doesn’t mean you should start walking — because you never know if the driver of the car is drunk, under the influence, sleeping behind the wheel, in the middle of texting, picking something up, or whatever other distraction that may interfere.

    As far as it goes for elderly people, or people with any mobilization issues that can’t move around as fast; yes, the streets CAN be dangerous, and it’s best to avoid big streets where you can. Also, using a busier intersection may help avoid injury, because the chances of a driver not seeing you is reduced (since there’s a crowd he can see). In case something were to happen, at least there’s a good amount of people that can help, report the driver, etc.

    If you’re out at night, wear bright colors if that helps. It’s your life over your outfit, so you can weight it out and make a decision.

  9. What if your mother was driving and somebody was crossing the street where they are not supposed to and against the light? She swerves, hits a pole, and gets injured (while, potentially, taking out a bystander in the process). What then? Will you console her by telling her that she was in a “position of big privilege”?

  10. The contrast between the raging attitudes of the self-righteous and the plain, printed law is illustrative of this intractable problem. Enforcement variables only add to the confusion.

  11. The walk lights are way too short for an able bodied person to cross the street, considering we have to wait on all the cars that are Turing on our walk light but an elderly person with a cane or walker doesn’t stand a chance!! Something needs to be done to extend the walk time, especially around senior centers and known senior living facilities.


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