Vehicle safety has been generally focused on improving the protection that a car can offer to an occupant, but now vehicles can also be designed to be safer for pedestrians if an accident occurs.
While deaths in all other types of passenger vehicle crashes have fallen dramatically during the past decade, pedestrian fatalities make up an increasing percentage of crash deaths, according to a study. In 2012, a total of 4,743 pedestrians died were killed in the United States, accounting for 14% of crash deaths. In contrast, the 4,851 pedestrians killed in 2002 made up 11% of crash deaths.
In the last few years, pedestrian fatalities have accounted for 30%-40% of all road accident deaths in urban India.
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in US finds that the regulation to modify the front of vehicles to lessen the harm they cause to pedestrians in crashes can help reduce deaths and injuries. The finding is important because few studies have examined the real-world effects of these vehicle-design changes. At the same time, the institute has been studying how pedestrian-detection systems, which alert a driver to a person in the vehicle’s path and in some cases brake automatically, perform on the test track.
Pedestrian protection is accomplished by designing the front of a vehicle so that pedestrians and other vulnerable road users are less likely to be injured if they are hit. Advanced countries have introduced legislation to ensure that all cars offer some level of protection to pedestrians. Improved crashworthiness and growing availability of systems to help drivers avoid crashes have made roads safer for vehicle occupants. Now engineers are working on improvements to vehicles that could protect pedestrians, too.
To design vehicles to cause less injury to a pedestrian in a collision, engineers and researchers spend time reviewing real-world crash data, using computer simulations of crashes and performing actual crash testing with full dummies and test devices, called impactors, which represent portions of dummies’ bodies (such as a leg or a head).
Statistics show that most pedestrians are struck by the front of a vehicle, but what happens in the crash varies widely depending on several factors, including the type of vehicle, its speed and the height of the pedestrian. The result is a multitude of scenarios that make studying these accidents challenging.
(Read the full article in the December issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)