Walk — Don’t Walk!

As vehicles become ever safer for their occupants, more interest is being taken in pedestrian safety. But how much can technology achieve, and how much depends upon changing attitudes?

As many as 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed and 300,000 injured in the European Community yearly in road accidents. A significant proportion of casualties are pedestrians and cyclists injured due to contact with a moving vehicle, notably with the frontal structures of passenger cars.

Historically, most attempts 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 adults 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. The higher the rate of collision, the greater the risk of severe injuries. Such injuries may be caused by the collision with the car 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 to mitigate the severity of pedestrian injuries. As a result, all new vehicle models will have to pass several tests. In the first phase, starting in 2005, new vehicles must comply with two tests concerning protection against head and leg injuries. In a second phase, beginning in 2010, four trials of increased severity, based on the European Enhanced Vehicle Committee (EEVC) recommendations, will be required for new types of vehicles, two tests concerning head injuries and two concerning concerns leg injuries.
While much recent discussion about pedestrian protection has focused on redesigning the vehicle front end (European Automotive Design, April 2002), 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 visible to pedestrians
• Making pedestrians more visible to vehicles and their drivers
• Reducing the severity of any unavoidable impact.

Source:  Road Safe