Protecting Older Pedestrians in Northwest Florida

Walking is both a reliable method of transportation and a terrific way to improve and maintain one's health. Walking can be a particularly great option for older individuals. The low-impact nature offers health benefits without being too taxing on an aging body. It can allow an individual to maintain some independence, even if driving becomes a dangerous option. Unfortunately, all pedestrians face the risk of accidents, and this risk increases for older pedestrians. When inattentive drivers cause accidents that injure or kill a pedestrian of any age, our firm is here to help.

Elderly Man Struck and Killed While Walking Dog

Stanley R. Matuszcak, age 76, was attempting to cross Crawfordville Highway (Highway 319) near Taff Drive when he was struck by a Nissan Sentra driven by Kenneth C. DiPietrantonio, Jr. Tallahassee's WCTV spoke with witnesses who reported that the elderly man had been walking his dog at the time of the crash. The impact occurred on the right side of the Sentra and caused Matuszcak to travel up the hood of the vehicle before striking the windshield. Emergency responders transported the elderly pedestrian to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Matuszcak's dog also died in the accident. DiPietrantonio, Jr, a 24-year-old from Crawfordville, was uninjured. Officials are still investigating the incident.

NHTSA Statistics on Older Pedestrians

In one of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ("NHTSA") Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data reports, titled "Older Population" and released in April 2013, the group focuses on United States residents who are 65 years of age or older (note: this segment will be referred to as "older" throughout this entry, no offense intended to those who still feel young!). For 2011, this segment represented 13% of the total population. Looking at motor vehicle traffic crashes, older people comprise 17% of traffic fatalities and 8% of those who suffered motor vehicle crash injuries.

Table 1 in the report breaks down the involvement of older Americans in specific types of traffic fatalities. Focusing on pedestrian deaths, the report notes that in 2011 there were a total of 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in the United States. Of these, 845 were people over age 65, representing 19.1% of the total. Broken down by gender, 522 males over 65 died in pedestrian crashes in 2011 (16.9% of all male pedestrian fatalities) and 323 females over 65 were killed in 2011 pedestrian accidents (24% of all female pedestrian fatalities). All of these percentages were a reduction from the equivalent figures in 2002.

Further Details Hint at Differences in Older Pedestrian Fatalities

The report includes a few interesting details about the accidents that caused the deaths of older pedestrians. While 83% of other pedestrian deaths occurred at non-intersection locations, 69% of pedestrian fatalities involving older individuals occurred at places other than intersections. This is still a clear majority, but it also suggests older people are more likely to be killed in intersections than other individuals. This fact may be useful in crafting safety programs, including lessons for drivers on watching for seniors and allowing sufficient time for an older person to cross the road.

There is another detail to consider – older individuals were less likely than other age groups (under 16, 16-20, 21-34, 35-54, and 55-64) to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher at the time they suffered a fatal pedestrian crash. This suggests that the reasons behind elderly pedestrian accidents may be different than those impacting younger individuals. Again, this can be helpful in developing safety and prevention programming.

Protecting older pedestrians is a community-wide effort. It requires alert drivers and passersby who are willing to offer assistance should an older pedestrian need a helping hand. We also believe that it requires fighting for the older individuals who've been injured or killed in a pedestrian accident caused by someone else's negligence or wrongful acts. Our law firm can help individuals and families recover necessary damages and remind drivers that the law will hold them responsible for their acts.

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