NHTSA Plans Rules to Save Pedestrian Lives
In light of rising pedestrian deaths from accidents, the U.S. is expected to propose rules to increase the safety of vehicle hoods and bumpers in crashes. As Jayne O’Donnell reports in USA TODAY, data released on Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) show that nearly 4,300 people were killed when hit by cars in 2010, a 4% increase from 2009; about 75% of those fatalities occurred in urban areas. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes, the report says.
Cheryl Jensen writes for The New York Times Blog Wheels that these statistics are the most recent ones available to the federal government as reported by states, and that NHTSA expects to release 2011 figures later this year. In an email, the agency said it is too soon to speculate about what might have contributed to the increase, Jensen writes. The 2010 report shows that 36 pedestrians were killed in Colorado traffic accidents, representing 8% of that year’s traffic fatalities.
NHTSA hosts a meeting next month to help finalize a global safety standard that includes proposed changes to the design of hoods and bumpers so they absorb more of the impact when cars collide with people. NHTSA is expected to propose similar safety rules that would closely align the U.S. with those in Europe and Asia.
Although the current U.S. law requires vehicle bumpers to be strong, to reduce the cost of repairs after low-speed crashes, as BMW’s vice president of engineering Tom Baloga notes, that law would need to be modified, to protect pedestrians, by allowing bumpers to be weaker, O’Donnell writes. However, she goes on to say: “Instead of vehicle design changes, most automakers prefer to focus on crash-avoidance technologies, such as automatic braking, that they say can save more lives for the money.
The report includes the following important safety reminders for drivers and pedestrians:
- Drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing streets in marked or unmarked crosswalks in most situations. They need to be especially careful at intersections where the failure to yield right-of-way often occurs when drivers are turning onto another street and a pedestrian is in their path.
- When possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk. Always stop and look left, right, and left again before crossing. If a parked vehicle is blocking the view of the street, stop at the edge line of the vehicle and look around it before entering the street.
- Increase visibility at night by carrying a flashlight when walking and by wearing retro-reflective clothing that helps to highlight body movements.
- It is much safer to walk on a sidewalk, but if you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.
You can read the whole report here (PDF).