New safety technology could reduce pedestrian fatalities. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed digital safety systems to spot pedestrians and automatically apply the vehicle’s brakes to reduce rising pedestrian fatalities.
There are 6 million car accidents in the U.S. every year and 6,000 accidents involve the death of a pedestrian. That’s a 50% increase from the number of pedestrian deaths just 10 years ago.
Automotive safety advocates and government regulators have been struggling to address these deadly accidents. A new study released Thursday, February 21, by The Insurance Institute for High Safety could provide a solution.
The study involved testing pedestrian crash avoidance technology in 11 SUVs in common pedestrian collision scenarios. In most of the tests, the SUVs stopped in time or slowed down enough to reduce the impact on the pedestrian.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that these digital safety systems could help to prevent many pedestrian collisions or reduce their severity. So brands like Toyota, which is considered one of the world’s most valuable car brands, could be equipped with these new systems.
The institute also suggests improving vehicles’ lighting systems to help the drivers see better so they have more time to react to the pedestrian. Up to 77% of vehicles on U.S. roads are in need of repairs.
“We want to encourage manufacturers to include pedestrian detection capabilities as they equip more of their vehicles with automatic emergency braking systems,” said David Aylor, the IIHS manager of Active Safety Testing.
“We also want to arm consumers with information about these systems so they can make smart choices when shopping for a new vehicle,” said Aylor.
Most of the vehicles in the IIHS study were capable of detecting and responding to pedestrians. Only the BMW X1 failed to respond. According to the insurance trade group, the vehicle’s digital safety system functioned so poorly that it sent a crash dummy airborne.
The rise in pedestrian accidents is partly due to digital technology. Both drivers and pedestrians are distracted by their phones.
“We’ve got distracted drivers and we’ve got distracted pedestrians, and that is a deadly combination,” said Rebecca Lindland, an independent auto analyst.
But it isn’t just digital technology that’s to blame. Traffic volume has also increased since the end of the last recession due to poorly-designed roadways.
In 2017, the City of New York reduced its pedestrian fatalities to 101, the lowest total since 1910, by targeting roadway redesign and updating road markings. But experts believe that changing vehicle design could also help reduce pedestrian accidents.
“The best possible outcome is to avoid hitting a pedestrian altogether,” said Aylor. “[But] when a crash is unavoidable, sharply reducing a vehicle’s travel speed would give someone on foot a far greater chance of surviving any injuries in a similar real-world encounter with a passenger vehicle.”