Almost two-thirds of the 1.2 million people killed annually in road traffic crashes worldwide are pedestrians. Despite the magnitude of the problem, most attempts at reducing pedestrian deaths have focused solely on education and traffic regulation. Crash engineers have begun to develop vehicle design concepts that reduce the likelihood of injuries to pedestrians in the event of a car-pedestrian crash. These involve redesigning the bumper, hood and the windshield and pillar to be softer without compromising the structural integrity of the car.
Anatomy of a car-pedestrian crash
Most pedestrian crashes involve a forward moving car. In such a crash, a standing or walking pedestrian is struck and accelerated to the speed of the car and then continues forward as the car brakes to a halt. Although the pedestrian is impacted twice, first by the car and then by the ground, most of the fatal injuries occur due to the interaction with the car. The car-pedestrian interaction is characterized by the following sequence of events: the vehicle bumper first contacts the lower limbs of the pedestrian, the leading edge of the hood hits the upper thigh or pelvis, and the head and upper torso are struck by the top surface of the hood and/or windshield.
Reducing pedestrian injuries
Most pedestrian deaths occur due to the traumatic brain injury resulting from the hard impact of the head against the stiff hood or windshield. In addition, injuries to the lower limb (usually to the knee joint and long bones) are the most common cause of disability due to pedestrian crashes. A Frontal Protection System (FPS) is a device fitted to the front end of a vehicle to protect both pedestrians and cyclists who are involved in a front end collision with a vehicle. Car design has been shown to have a large impact on the severity of pedestrian injury in car accidents.
Pedestrian safety in Europe, Japan and Korea
Each year, automobiles kill more people than malnutrition, war and stomach cancer. That’s not including drivers and passengers. Obviously, the automobile – pedestrian toll is greatest in developing nations. But the industrial world’s pedestrian ‘killed or seriously injured’ statistics are also pretty grim. Legislators in Europe, Japan and Korea have decided to take action. They’ve all developed legislative initiatives to force car makers to introduce new technology for reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries.