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Study looks at senior pedestrians, crosswalks

We occasionally discuss the need to improve pedestrian safety, a major problem nationwide and a particularly acute problem in Pinellas County. We have one of the worst records in the country for killing pedestrians.

Now, no less venerable a publication than the Journal of the American Medical Association tells us something about the cause of the problem.

Marked crosswalks can be more dangerous for elderly people than unmarked crossings, according to a study recently published in JAMA.

It suggests that pedestrians 65 and older are three times more likely to be hit while crossing streets at intersections with painted crosswalks than at unmarked crossings.

"Marked crosswalks may give older pedestrians a false sense of security," the study says.

During the study, there were 282 accidents involving cars and older pedestrians. Twenty of those pedestrians died.

While less than 13 percent of the U.S. population is 65 or older, elderly adults accounted for nearly 22 percent of the 4,882 pedestrian deaths in car crashes last year.

Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and JAMA contributing editor Thomas Cole wrote that adding traffic signals, improving lighting and educating older pedestrians might reduce the number of deaths.

This is all true, we're certain. But it also would help if a lot of Pinellas drivers would stop plowing through crosswalks without regard for the people on foot who have every legal right to be there.

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While we're on the subject, we want to remind you that the city of St. Petersburg is holding an open house to discuss its master plan for pedestrian and bicycle traffic this week.

It's 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Sun Pavilion Room of the Bayfront Center, 400 First Street S. You'll be able to talk to city officials about the city's plans for becoming a more friendly environment for pedestrians and bikers and about specific neighborhood walking and biking problems.

See components of the St. Petersburg Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan on the city's Web site at www.stpete.org/bikeped. For more information, contact Michael Frederick of neighborhood transportation at (727) 893-7843.

Jessie loves to walk. She's not great on a bicycle because her legs aren't long enough, but put her on a trike and she's heck on wheels.

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Just when you thought you were done with traffic disruptions on the Sunshine Skyway bridge, along come the state roadies with yet another project.

You probably recall the Case of the Disintegrating Cables. When the Skyway was built, somebody neglected to plug openings at the bases of a few of the columns that hold the Skyway up. Over the years, water leaked in and corroded some of the support cables within the hollow columns. A few broke.

No danger there, Drive Meisters, but just to be on the safe side, the roadies filled up the most severely damaged column with reinforced concrete to make it invincible. Then they decided to fill up all 76 of the columns to be on the safe side. And while they're filling columns, they're going to do some lane striping, too.

And, oh, joy, the work begins on this very day and will last in one form or another for the next year.

Did we say a year?

Yes, sadly, we did. But only a year's worth of nights.

Lane closures will be limited to between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., and the roadies say they don't expect any major traffic delays with this project.

We could say that we've heard that song before, but we won't.

What you need to watch for are lane shifts in the area of the barriers.

The Sunshine Skyway opened in 1987.

If they ever finish building it, we'll let you know.

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Vexing problem in Pinellas Park, brought to us courtesy of Robin Harding. Drivers leaving northbound U.S. 19 for northbound 49th Street have a yield sign, which they ignore. It seems to us the design of the road is the problem. Drivers entering 49th Street see an open lane ahead of them. There is no need to merge, therefore no need to yield. The sign seems unnecessary.

But it is there because some of the through traffic on 49th has to move to the right to make the turn onto Lakes Boulevard. If traffic coming from U.S. 19 doesn't yield, these vehicles have to stop in a through lane until they can get over. Not a good thing.

We would ask drivers entering northbound 49th Street from U.S. 19 to pay more attention and be a little more courteous.

And we thank you.

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Now for Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbit of the Week:

The federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics tells us that 3 percent of all U.S. households have a motor vehicle that uses adaptive equipment, such as hand controls, modified foot pedals or wheelchair lifts. An uplifting thought.

Bonus Tidbit:

The same federal agency says that more than two in five Americans (41.6 percent to be tres specific) declare that traffic congestion is a problem in their community.

No kidding? The other 58.4 percent must either live on farms or under their beds.

_ Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelaysptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg 33701.

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