Most older pedestrians are unable to cross the road in time: study

June 13, 2012, Oxford University Press

The ability to cross a road in time is one that most of us take for granted. A new study published in the journal Age and Ageing, entitled 'Most Older Pedestrians are unable to cross the road in time: a cross-sectional study', has compared the walking speed of the older population in the UK (aged 65 and over) with the speed required to use a pedestrian crossing. Currently, to use a pedestrian crossing a person must cross at a speed above 1.2 meters per second.

The research led by Dr Laura Asher of the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at UCL (University College London), found that the mean of participants in the Health Survey for England was 0.9 meters per second for older men and 0.8 meters per second for older women. This is much below the speed required to use a crossing in the UK and many other parts of the world. As age increased in the participants, the speed at which they could walk also decreased. Overall, 76% of men and 85% of women had a walking speed that was below the required speed of 1.2 meters per second. The research also found that 93% of women and 84% of men had walking impairment.

Laura Asher comments that, "being able to cross the road is extremely important for local residents. It affects older adults' health, as they are more likely to avoid crossing a busy road. Walking is an important activity for older people as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits. Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services and shops, that are all important in day to day life."

She added: "Older pedestrians are more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision than younger people due to slower walking speed, slower decision making and perceptual difficulties. Older people who are hit are also more likely to die from their injuries than younger people. Having insufficient time at a road crossing may not increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities but it will certainly deter this group from even trying to cross the road.

"For older people, the ability to venture outside of the home is not only important for health benefits but is also important to maintain relationships, social networks and independence. Physical activity in older residents is dependent on their ability to negotiate their local environment, including crossing a road safely. The groups of people identified in this study as the most vulnerable and as having a walking impairment are also the least likely to have access to other, more expensive, forms of transport."

Asher and colleagues built upon established knowledge of walking speeds by also showing that the 'oldest old', those living in a deprived area, current smokers, and those with a poor grip strength, were most likely to have a walking impairment. Older adults whose general health was rated as fair or worse, or who had a longstanding illness were also more likely to have a walking impairment.

The cross-sectional study used 2005 data from the Health Survey for England (HSE), a nationally representative survey of adults and children living in private households. It also included a boost sample of people aged above 65 years old. Data from these participants was collected from an interview and nurse visit. In total, 3,145 older adults received a nurse home visit, with 90% of men and 87% of women taking the walking speed test.

Asher states that "the strength of this study is that it provides an accurate picture of the proportion of people aged 65 and over in the general population who are likely to be unable to use pedestrian crossings safely. The study has a large sample size and the inclusion of participants with disability means that the study is representative of the older population. By testing people in the general rather than those already using a pedestrian crossing, we have included people who may have difficulty using a pedestrian crossing and are therefore unwilling to use them."

"Further consideration needs to be taken on the time allowed at pedestrian crossings. Pedestrian crossing times are currently being decreased in London as part of the Smoothing Traffic Flow Strategy, which is one component of the 2010 Mayor's Transport Strategy. Although there has been no alteration in the minimum assumed walking speed of pedestrians, there is a reduced 'invitation to cross' (green man) time."

"Our study has shown that even before these changes, the vast majority of people over 65 years old in England are unable to walk fast enough to use a pedestrian crossing."

KEY POINTS:

  • The vast majority of people over 65 years old in England are unable to walk fast enough to use a pedestrian crossing safely
  • Those affected are more likely to be from deprived areas
  • It is important for older adults to be able to cross the road safely to keep physically active, maintain social contacts, and access shops and services
  • Current pedestrian crossing timings should be reviewed

Explore further: Lower limb muscle limitations hamper walking in diabetes

More information: ‘Most older pedestrians are unable to cross the road in time: a cross-sectional study’, Laura Asher, Maria Aresu, Emanuela Falaschetti, Jennifer Mindell, Age and Ageing, DOI: 10.193/ageing/afs076

Related Stories

Lower limb muscle limitations hamper walking in diabetes

May 30, 2012
(HealthDay) -- In older adults, diabetes correlates with slower walking speed, and diabetes-linked reductions in muscle strength and worse muscle quality contribute to these walking limitations, according to a study published ...

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.