Medical professionals and transportation experts convened Thursday for the third New York City Summit on Pedestrian Injury, hosted by Elmhurst Hospital. The day-long event brought transportation officials and advocates together with doctors who witness the destruction caused by reckless drivers in the city every day.
The summit is chaired by Dr. Jamie Ullman, director of neurosurgery at Elmhurst, and Anju Galer, trauma coordinator for the hospital’s departments of surgery and nursing. Elmhurst is in year two of a three-year pedestrian and cyclist injury study. Ullman said 2012 marked an all-time high in the number of injuries within the hospital catchment area, and in 2013, she said, it’s a trend that shows “no signs of stopping.”
Dr. Kaushal Shah is the principal investigator for the study. Shah noted that media reports usually offer only the barest details of what happens in a traffic crash. To illustrate, he showed a slide of a recent story that reduced the deaths of two pedestrians to one short paragraph.
When a person is struck by a motorist, said Shah, it is “the worst day of their life.” For example, the first child hit by curb-jumping driver Francis Aung Lu in Maspeth in September was in the operating room for 10 hours, Shah said. Senior Cui Ju Yu, struck by a hit-and-run driver in Corona two weeks later, died from a brain hematoma*.
Most adult pedestrians who die are killed due to trauma to the head and neck, said Dr. George Agriantonis, director of trauma at Elmhurst. Injuries to the lower extremities often lead to significant disability. Flipping through slides of x-rayed and photographed images of grievous injuries, Agriantonis said compound fractures of the legs and shattered pelvises are common.
Injury patterns depend on the speed and type of vehicle, Agriantonis said. When an adult is struck by a passenger vehicle, there are usually three incidents of impact. The front of the vehicle hits the legs, which throws the victim onto the hood and windshield. The third impact occurs when the victim falls off the vehicle and hits the pavement or sidewalk.
Small children take the brunt of a collision to the torso and pelvis. Rather than being whipped onto the hood, said Agriantonis, because of their height children are thrown forward, and remain in the path of the vehicle.
Shah said researchers are seeing an increase in sidewalk crashes. Said Ullman: “I don’t know why these people are driving on the sidewalk.”
The Elmhurst catchment area is populated by 1.5 million people, Ullman said. Pedestrians hit by drivers were the leading injury category of emergency patients at Elmhurst from 2000 to 2009, and at 296, the number of pedestrians and cyclists admitted in 2012 was the hospital’s highest ever.