Friends of White Flint

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Seniors and Safety in the Suburbs

Posted on by Amy Donin

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A new study from the Journal of Planning and Education Research suggests that typical suburban neighborhood features may be related to an increased risk of serious injury or death for older adults (75 years or more in this case), both drivers and pedestrians. The abstract states “intersections, strip commercial establishments, big box stores, and arterial thoroughfares were associated with increases in crashes involving older motorists, while big box stores and arterials increased crashes for older pedestrians.”

However, the authors point out that this is not simply due to declines in driving ability associated with age, such as decreased visual acuity and slower reactions times. In fact, it is these very changes that make older drivers MORE cautious. Nevertheless older drivers who live in traditional suburban neighborhoods are often forced to drive on roads with high speeds and many lanes – the very roads they feel less equipped to handle – to get around.

The authors conclude that “networks of lower-speed streets and the design of pedestrian-scaled retail uses appear to be promising strategies for ensuring safe mobility for older adults.” Just another example of how mixed-use, walkable communities can create welcome change for all generations.

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