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summer 05
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New program aims to develop model for improving mobility and safety among older pedestrians

Recognizing the mobility issues surrounding a growing aging population in the United States, the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center will be developing a model program to create safer and more inviting walking environments for older adults.

The study, being implemented in Hendersonville, NC, will evaluate the elements needed to implement a community-based, older pedestrian safety program. Center researchers will identify Hendersonville neighborhoods that have a large population of older pedestrians. Working closely with Hendersonville residents, researchers will then conduct assessments of these neighborhoods through pedestrian interviews and environmental audits. The environmental audits will be conducted prior to and following the implementation of the program to examine safety improvements and potential shifts in perceptions of walkability as a result of the program.

Community involvement will be integral in developing a sound, integrated program. A series of town meetings will be executed to allow for extensive input from the community. Hendersonville residents and key stakeholders will also be involved in the development of an action plan to address specific older pedestrian safety needs. The program aims to build community support for and overall awareness of older pedestrian safety issues to facilitate safety improvements in the community.

The program will also aim to educate local traffic engineers, planners, law enforcement personnel and health professionals on additional steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of older pedestrians.

Older pedestrians involved in a crash are much more likely than younger pedestrians to suffer serious or fatal injury, due in part to the increased fragility that often comes with age. In fact, pedestrians ages 75 and older have a higher per population fatality rate than any other age group. Older pedestrians are also significantly overrepresented in pedestrian crashes that occur at intersections.

In addition to funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the project will have in-kind support from many state and local agencies and organizations, including the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, N.C. Department of Transportation, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division on Aging and Adult Services, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and the Henderson County Partnership for Health.

The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300  |  Campus Box 3430  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203  |  Fax: 919.962.8710