New Auto Designs May Help Reduce Pedestrian Injuries

Posted on Aug 26, 2009

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), January 1 and October 31 are the two most deadly days of the year for pedestrians. Autumn is the season for the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities. The three hour time period between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. is the highest rate of any other three hour time frame for pedestrian fatalities. Fridays and Saturdays also have higher fatality rates than any other day of the week. One in five pedestrians killed were killed in hit-and-run crashes. This report also stated that pedestrian fatalities have decreased in the past ten years from 13% to 11%. Part of the reason for the decline is vehicle designs have changed in recent years to reduce injuries when a car collides with a pedestrian.

Related: Louisville, KY - 17th Most Dangerous City for Pedestrians

New car designs
While automakers have made several advancements to protect the safety of the occupants inside the vehicle, they are now focusing on the safety of the people outside the vehicles. This trend was prompted in part by safety standards in cars being manufactured overseas. Since cars are being sold overseas, car manufacturers want their cars to meet as many global standards as possible.

Factors that affect pedestrian safety
Studying pedestrian accidents are more challenging that it seems. Most pedestrian are hit with the front of the vehicle but there are several factors that determine what will happen after the impact. The size of the vehicle as well as the size of the pedestrian can have different results making a comprehensive study more difficult. An example would be if a high profile car, like an SUV, hits a pedestrian, it will likely mean the impact will occur higher on the body. Another of the many factors is the position of the legs.  This will determine whether their body will go forward or backward. Speed is another consideration. If the driver doesn’t brake, the pedestrian will likely end up on the hood of the car. If the driver brakes, they will likely end up under the vehicle. 

Car designs with pedestrians in mind
Some of the changes in vehicle design have been obvious changes to help lower pedestrian injury. These include: hood ornaments (imbedded in the grill or designed to collapse), exterior mirror (which are on springs) and door handles are recessed. All of these design changes can reduce injury to a pedestrian who has been hit. Another less obvious change is hood designs. Most cars manufactured in the U.S. have braces that support the hood that will collapse when impacted from above.  Engine covers are made of plastic to further soften the blow. Some vehicles have also increased the amount of space between the hood and engine cover.

Related: How long does it take to settle a pedestrian accident case?

Bumper problems
A major area of concern that is proving to be a challenge for car makers is the front bumper. In Europe and Asia, where there are many more pedestrians, they have designed bumpers with more crush space. Unfortunately, these bumpers don’t do as well in crash tests and can interfere with the sensors that trigger airbag deployment. A solution being implemented by Toyota is bumpers with high density foam which is behind a plastic bumper cover. There will be more design changes in the future that will undoubtedly lead to more pedestrian safety standards in the autos made in the U.S. On average, 13 pedestrians are killed which averages out to around one death every two hours. That's too many. Hopefully with these new car designs and drivers and pedestrians being careful, we'll lower that number.

Michael Schafer
The Personal Injury Attorney for Louisville and Kentucky