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Desert Care Network Pedestrian Safety Article for Desert Sun Online

Sep 26, 2019

Be a Healthy Pedestrian Not a Statistic

Crossing the street should not be a death-defying act!

tennis shoe walkingPedestrians have no physical protection. Even if they survive being struck by a vehicle, the older the person, the more severe the injury can be as many seniors have brittle bones and take blood-thinning medications that affect how their blood clots. Secondary injuries can also occur if victims are thrown through the air and strike another object.

Nationwide, pedestrian fatalities continue to rise. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in the United States in 2016, an increase of approximately 10% over 2015. In the Coachella Valley, there were 31 pedestrian deaths in 2016.

What contributes to pedestrian fatalities and injuries?

  • Distracted walking and driving
  • Drivers not yielding to pedestrians
  • Jay walking
  • Pedestrians not being visible
  • Alcohol/drugs while walking/driving
  • Drivers speeding
  • Timing of lights at intersections not allowing enough time to cross safely

Crossing at a designated crosswalk is key as the location of 72% of pedestrian fatalities nationally was at a non-intersection. Of the NHTSA statistics, 75% of pedestrian fatalities occurred at night when pedestrians are less visible. Additionally, drinking alcohol beyond the legal limit was a factor in 27% of fatally-injured pedestrians who had a blood alcohol level greater than .08.

In 2016, Desert Regional Medical Center admitted 75 pedestrians and 26 bicyclists with moderate to severe injuries, which represents an increase of 78% in injuries from 2013, with Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs seeing the most occurrences.

“Any number is too high,” said Gael Whetstone, BSN, RN, Trauma Injury Prevention Program coordinator for Desert Care Network. The statistics for 2017 are down slightly at 63 pedestrians and 24 bicyclists, but numbers for 2018 are trending upward again according to Whetstone. These numbers do not include people who came to the emergency room, but were treated and discharged. The hospital’s trauma registry only includes those who had significant enough injuries to be admitted. Additionally, data from pedestrian admissions to Desert Regional Medical Center from 2015 to 2017 reveals that 80% of them reside locally.

September is Pedestrian Safety month and Whetstone is giving a public safety presentation at the Mizell Senior Center – Pedestrian Safety: Staying Safe When You’re Out and About – on Thursday, September 6, from 1 to 2 p.m. Whetstone will discuss the three E’s of pedestrian safety:

  1. Education – focusing on personal tips to be safe
  2. ngineering – an update on what Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs are doing to improve pedestrian safety including signage, delayed traffic signals preventing pedestrian crosswalk lights from turning green when a car does not stop for a red light, as well as other infrastructure changes.
  3. Enforcement – an update on local police department enforcement on     jay walking and drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians.

Safe walking tips:

  • Use a sidewalk or path when available.
  • Walk on the shoulder facing the traffic if there is no sidewalk
  • Don’t be distracted by electronic devices
  • Never assume a driver sees you
  • Cross streets at crosswalks/intersections
  • Look left, right and left again
  • Be visible! Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials or lights a night

“A lot of us walk at night because it’s cooler,” said Whetstone, “but night walking requires extra precaution. We don’t encourage seniors to walk at night because their vision is not as good and some have balance problems and could more easily trip and fall. They are a higher risk population.”

“Public safety is a shared responsibility between the pedestrians, the motorists and the cyclists,” said Whetstone. “The bottom line is that public safety begins at home. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety. There is nothing magical about these tips, they are simply good reminders.” To learn more, RSVP to attend the upcoming seminar.

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