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Increasing Pedestrian Fatalities May Be Reduced By Improved Safety Standards: NTSB

A recent report suggests that nearly one in six vehicle crash fatalities involves a pedestrian, prompting federal highway safety officials to call for new regulations that could improve pedestrian safety through improved headlights technology, vehicle designs and pedestrian crash avoidance systems. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a series of safety recommendations (PDF) on September 25, calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to collaborate on efforts to produce better standards that will protect pedestrians.

The announcement follows a study released this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which found that pedestrian fatalities have drastically risen from 2009 to 2016, accounting for roughly 16 percent of all crash fatalities annually.

According to the findings, from 2009 to 2016, pedestrian deaths increased 54 percent in urban areas including both cities and suburbs. A 67 percent increase was recorded on arterials, a 50 percent increase at non-intersections, and a 56 percent increase attributed to dark and low lit areas.

The NTSB announced it has also conducted 15 separate investigations of fatal pedestrian crashes since 2015, to determine factors that contributed to the crashes. The series of recommendations were established through these investigations.

The agency recommends that the NHTSA begin writing tougher vehicle headlight standards and to revise regulations to permit adaptive headlights, which can change direction as a vehicle turns, better illuminating curves.

Other recommendations include testing vehicle designs that reduce injuries to pedestrians, such as softer hoods. The previous IIHS study suggested the increase of pedestrian fatalities could be partially due to increased speed limits and the increase in popularity of SUV’s and larger family oriented vehicles colliding with pedestrians.

Officials state that crash avoidance systems being implemented in vehicles have proven to work well, however it only protects the individuals inside of the vehicle, rather than pedestrians. As part of the recommendations, NTSB officials are recommending the NHTSA incorporate pedestrian collision avoidance systems into its crash-test ratings to encourage vehicle manufacturers to develop and improve software.

It is also being recommended that the CDC work with the NHTSA to develop a national database of pedestrian fatalities and injuries to be analyzed regularly to understand which roadway, crossing, or vehicle factors are among the highest contributing dangers to be improved.

FHA officials are being called on by the NTSB to expand the roll out of pedestrian-friendly road designs that would incorporate several designs to keep drivers aware of crosswalks and zones that pedestrians will be occupying, as well as making signals clear for pedestrians on where and when to cross intersections.

The IIHS previously made several recommendations to decrease pedestrian fatalities, such as adding curb extensions or median crossing islands to shorten the distance people have to walk and deter them from crossing outside of designated areas in so-called “hot spots” that are the scene of frequent fatalities.

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