Safety Regulators, Automakers, Taking on Issue of Pedestrian Safety

Vehicular accidents involving pedestrians account for more than 70,000 pedestrians being injured and 4,000 being killed each year in the U.S.  In most cases, the injuries and deaths result from the pedestrian being struck in the legs and thrown onto and along the hood of the moving vehicle, until he collides with the windshield.

In recent years, however, automakers and safety regulators have begun to focus on ways to make pedestrians safer.

According to the Honda corporate Web site, “A significant number of fatal pedestrian injuries are the result of trauma to the head. So, Honda has focused initially on reducing the threat of head injuries to pedestrians. These technologies include a wiper system and other hood features designed to give way to help cushion the force if struck by the head of a pedestrian.”

Honda U.S. safety research manager Doug Longhitano says fenders and hoods of the automaker’s vehicles are offset from structural elements and engines to provide some degree of cushioning to pedestrians. Honda has also equipped its vehicles with breakaway windshield wipers to lessen the chances that pedestrians will be injured by coming in contact with them during an accident.  These safety features have been standard on all Honda and Acura models sold in the U.S. since 2008.

According to company spokeswoman Heather Rosenker, General Motors Company has also redesigned the hoods of its vehicles to provide some cushioning to pedestrians.

Although not currently available in the U.S., Volvo began exterior windshield airbags as a standard feature on its V40 hatchback this year.

Earlier this month NHTSA administrator David Strickland said the agency is working on developing global pedestrian safety standards.  He declined to give specifics or a timeline for when the new standards might be implemented. Speaking with reporters, Strickland said, “It’s a two-step process, but traditionally speaking, those global technical regulations are very close to what will ultimately result in a final regulation here in the United States.”

Last January the NHTSA began requiring hybrid and all-electric carmakers to equip their vehicles with sound emitting devices designed to warn cyclists, pedestrians and the visually impaired of their presence when traveling at low speeds, under pure electric power.

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