How can we reduce the alarming increase in pedestrian deaths on our roads?

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Pedestrian collisions with cars and pedestrian fatalities are increasing at an alarming rate. This is despite many new cars having collision warning systems and proximity detectors. The increasing rates of pedestrians being run over by drivers is in great part attributed to lack of driver attention, and in a lesser part to lack of pedestrians paying attention to their surroundings. It seems many of us are too busy with our devices and other distractions and not busy enough with keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. Another cause of increased deaths may be the trend to more people driving SUVs which are deadlier by nature of their shape.

The National Transportation Safety Board in America also points to other issues related to increased pedestrian / car crashes, injuries and deaths. These include increased drug impaired driving and walking, and increased rates of urbanization.

Police and insurers are reminding drivers to focus on the roadways. Pedestrian and cycling activists are doing the same. We wrote a while back about municipalities lowering speed limits. The impact of lowering speed limits to 40 km/h in urban areas. The chances of a pedestrian surviving a crash when the car is moving more than 50km/h is nearly nil. Under 40 km/h are good. Some manufacturers are trying to modify the coating of the car and windshield to make them ‘stickier’ to pedestrians to avoid ‘bouncing’ a person off the hood into another lane of traffic.

Car manufacturers are now exploring all kinds of crash avoidance and impact mitigation techniques for cars. Digital safety systems are being developed along with self-driving cars. This technology can spot pedestrians and apply vehicle brakes automatically. This would prevent thousands of deaths and injuries a year in Canada. Other options that car manufacturers are exploring include better lighting systems to help drivers see people on the roads and crosswalks in the dark.

The American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been testing cars equipped with AEB (automatic emergency braking) systems that have the capability to detect pedestrians in the path of the car. 4/5 of them had superior ratings. SUVs are the largest class of vehicle now sold in America so beginning testing with them makes sense. They also tend to be deadlier in car/people accidents due to their shape.

  • Other factors which would prevent human/car accidents include:
  • Road redesign
  • Increased use of autonomous vehicles
  • Better lighting in urban settings
  • Redesign of crosswalks in urban areas using scramble crosswalks
  • Better car lighting systems
  • Changing car design