Traffic light crossings 'too quick for pensioners'

Once the green man has started flashing, indicating people should not step off the pavement, pedestrians have five seconds to cross a typical six-metre (20ft) wide road. Then the traffic lights for motorists go green.

But a team at University College London found that pace was too quick for 76 per cent of men over the age of 65, and 85 per cent of women.

Road regulations governing timings for pedestrian crossings are based on the assumption that people can walk at 1.2 metres (4ft) per second.

The time between the ‘solid’ green man going out, and the traffic lights going green, is based on this assumed walking speed. Pedestrians are given more time to cross wider roads.

However, Dr Laura Asher said a study of more than 3,000 people over 65 found that most did not walk that fast.

It would take the average male pensioner 6.7 seconds to cross a six metre road, she and colleagues found, and the average female pensioner 7.5 seconds. Their research is published in the journal Age and Ageing.

If an older woman stepped off the kerb as the solid green man went out, she would still be in the road 2.5 seconds after motorists had started off. For a 10 metre (33ft) wide road, she would be in danger for more than four seconds.

Dr Asher said: “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."

She added: “These findings are worrying because being unable to cross a road in time affects older people’s ability to get out and about.

“It could deter them from even trying to cross the road, which is important for their social life and health.”

Poorer people were even more likely to struggle to get across in time, she noted, explaining: “They are much more likely to suffer from almost every health problem going.”

Dr Asher is particularly worried about older people in London, where Boris Johnson has ordered the solid green man ‘invitation to cross’ phase to be reduced from 10 to six seconds, as part of a drive to ease congestion.

Sourced from The Telegraph, 14th June 2012.