As vehicles become ever safer for their occupants, more interest is being taken in pedestrian safety. But how much can be achieved by technology and how much is dependent upon changing attitudes?
As many as 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed and a further 300,000 injured in the European Community each year in road accidents. A significant proportion of casualties are pedestrians and cyclists injured as a result of contact with a moving vehicle, notably with the frontal structures of passenger cars.
Historically, most attempts made to reduce pedestrian injuries have focused on isolation techniques such as pedestrian bridges, public education and traffic regulations, and have not included changes to vehicle design. The lack of effort devoted to vehicle modifications for pedestrian safety has stemmed primarily from society\’s view that the injury caused by a large, rigid automobile hitting a small, fragile pedestrian cannot be significantly reduced by alterations to the vehicle structure.
The laws of physics tend to support this view. The ratio between the two masses is 1:25 for an adult and up to 1:60 for a child. Because of this very uneven mass ratio, a pedestrian hit by a car is rapidly accelerated to a speed nearly as great as that of the vehicle, and the higher the speed of collision, the greater the risk of severe injuries. Such injuries may be caused by the collision with the vehicle or by hitting the ground, termed primary and secondary impacts.
EuroNCAP now rates the performance of all new passenger vehicles in three safety categories — occupant protection, child occupant safety and pedestrian protection.
The European Council and Parliament have now adopted proposals submitted by the European Commission aimed at mitigating the severity of injuries to pedestrians. All new vehicle models will have to pass a number of tests. In a first phase, starting in 2005, new types of vehicles must comply with two tests concerning protection against head injuries and leg injuries. In a second phase, starting in 2010, four tests of increased severity, based on the recommendations of the European Enhanced Vehicle Committee (EEVC), will be required for new types of vehicles, two tests concerning head injuries and two concerning leg injuries.
While much recent discussion about pedestrian protection has focused on the redesign of the vehicle front end (European Automotive Design, April 2002), the task of improving the fatality and injury rates for non-occupants involved in vehicle accidents is much more complicated and requires a multi-pronged approach.
Possibilities to be considered include:
• Separating vehicles and pedestrians wherever possible
• Making vehicles more obvious and visible to pedestrians
• Making pedestrians more visible to vehicles and their drivers
• Reducing the severity of any unavoidable impact.
Source: Road Safe