Pedestrian safety is a significant concern for Queens residents, according to a study conducted at Elmhurst Hospital Center. Astonishingly, vehicles striking pedestrians cause more than 30% of the injuries seen at Elmhurst Hospital, whereas the incidence ranges from 9-25% in other parts of New York City. The study included 998 patients admitted to Elmhurst as injured pedestrians. Nearly 21% of the patients were less than 18 years of age and 23% were 65 years or older. Elmhurst serves a catchment area of more than 1 million people in the Western portion of Queens and it is of great concern that the majority of those being struck by vehicles are between the ages of 24 and 65. Both children and the elderly have been targets for pedestrian safety initiatives such as Safe Kids and Safe Streets for Seniors; both are products of the New York City Department of Transportation. However, a grass-roots campaign is needed to address the problem in many young and middle-aged adults. Children are particularly influenced by what their older relatives and teachers do. It is important that all adults set an example for practicing safe crossing behaviors. In addition, drivers need to particularly aware of obeying speed limits and traffic rules to prevent hitting pedestrians, especially because much of Queens is densely populated.
The Elmhurst study did reveal that there was a trend toward more pedestrian injuries during the fall months and on weekends, especially Friday and Saturday. Children also followed the same patterns, while the elderly tended to be struck during the week. The majority of accidents occurred between 9AM and 3PM. When incident locations were placed on a map, Roosevelt Area revealed itself to be a particular “hot spot,” especially near Woodside and Queens Boulevard. Other areas of concern were Northern Boulevard and The Queens Boulevard/Long Island Expressway junction. While 7% of the Elmhurst Hospital pedestrian injury study patients died from their injuries, the average length of stay for the survivors was 10 days, indicating a significant amount of time was taken away from each person’s livelihood and families.
On September 12, 2008, Elmhurst Hospital held its first New York City Summit on Pedestrian Injury. Members of the hospital study team as well as hospitals from across the city, the NYC Department of Transportation, Transportation Alternatives (a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group) and the New York City Fire Department/ Emergency Medical Services Division spoke at the summit. In addition, former Councilwoman Helen Sears, a pedestrian advocate, and two victims of pedestrian injury spoke. The victims recounted their struggles to recapture their shattered lives after devastating injury.
Elmhurst Hospital will hold its second Pedestrian Summit on January 22, 2010 as the rate of pedestrian injuries has not declined. In fact, 2008 data revealed that pedestrian injury was the number one cause of trauma admissions to the hospital. As a result, Elmhurst Hospital plans to launce a pedestrian safety campaign with the cooperation of the NYC DOT within the next year. Community members interested in attending the summit can contact Elmhurst Hospital’s Department of External Affairs at 718-334-5919.
Not only is it important for Queens parents to understand that pedestrian injury is a significant problem, but they need to teach their children and, themselves, to practice safety in the streets… everywhere.
Jamie S. Ullman, MD is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Director, Department of Neurosurgery, Elmhurst Hospital Center.