Throughout past decades, automobile manufacturers have made great strides toward improving vehicle safety. Consumer Reports describes some of today’s advanced auto safety systems, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assistance, and rear cross traffic warning. Yet, many of these have not adequately addressed how vehicles can be safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Volvo has often been at the forefront of auto safety technology, and they recently announced that they have taken a step in this direction.
The Volvo Safety Center Senior Technical Leader explained that pedestrians and bicyclists are vulnerable when car accidents occur. He told Fast Company that car-to-pedestrian and car-to-cyclist crashes are taking up a larger portion of Volvo’s database that keeps records of car crashes that occur in Sweden, where Volvo is based. Their long-term goal focuses on creating car safety features that will better protect both pedestrians and cyclists.
The technical leader also discussed new auto-braking features that are better at detecting people, as well as cars, including an emerging technology that nudges drivers into making better driving decisions. He also said that many drivers need that extra reminder to do the right thing. Volvo is using Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing system that uses pulsed lasers to measure variable distances, plus advanced algorithms to design their safety tech.
What Do the Statistics Show?
All of the safety advances have worked well to decrease the car-to-car fatality rates; a study from the International Research Council on Biomechanics of Injury compared cars from the 1980s to more recent models, and it showed a 22 percent lower injury rate and 66 lower fatality rate in these types of accidents. Car & Driver reported that from 2009 to 2018, these car-to-car accident numbers increased about two percent.
Unfortunately, the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) claimed that pedestrian fatalities increased by 60 percent during that time. Additional statistics indicated that the number of pedestrians killed each year in traffic accidents have risen over the past few years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also reported that 857 bicyclists lost their lives in traffic crashes back in 2018. As in pedestrian versus car crashes, bicyclists are the ones most likely to become hurt or lose their lives in these types of accidents.
What Increases the Risk for Pedestrian Accidents?
Unlike motorists, pedestrians have nothing to protect their bodies when they are outside. Drivers are surrounded by their vehicles, and people outside are much more vulnerable. Certain age groups are more at risk for pedestrian fatalities, too. In 2017, one of every five children who were killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians. That same year, 20 percent of pedestrian deaths were to those aged 65 years and older.
It is not surprising to hear that a large percentage of motor vehicle accidents that led to pedestrian deaths involved alcohol for drivers and/or the pedestrians involved. Thirty-three percent of fatal pedestrian accidents involved a pedestrian who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. The CDC also posted that the majority of pedestrian deaths occur at night, at non-intersection locations, and in urban areas. Another risk factor is speeding; the faster the vehicle is going, the more severe the injuries.
What Increases the Risk for Bicycle Accidents?
Motorists and bicyclists are both responsible for following the rules of the road, and when this does not happen, the risk of crashes increases. Many drivers become impatient when they have to wait for bicyclists, follow them too closely, or attempt to pass illegally. The NHTSA claimed that bicyclist deaths were more likely to happen in urban than rural areas, and the risk for males was eight times higher. Alcohol was a factor in 37 percent of fatal crashes, and the majority occurred between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
One of the best ways for bicyclists to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries is to always wear a properly-fitting helmet. To ensure the right fit, purchase one from an established bike shop and have it fitted there. Front and rear lights are also important and should be used at all times.
How can Pedestrians and Bicyclists Be Safety Conscious?
With so many more people enjoying walks and runs these days, it is more important than ever to stay focused on safety. It is always better for pedestrians to walk on sidewalks, but if none are available, they should walk as far from traffic as they can. Street signs and signals apply to everyone, so they should be followed. It is best to cross streets at intersections or crosswalks, as long as the pedestrian checks for cars in all directions before proceeding.
Just like motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists can get distracted. Using an electronic handheld device while walking or biking is dangerous, as they take one’s eyes and ears away from the road. It is also important to slow down when approaching a driveway or when in parking lots, since many drivers will not look before moving. Making eye contact with drivers is recommended, since the pedestrian or bicyclist will know that they were seen. Another tip is to always be visible, which is done by wearing bright clothing, using a flashlight, and wearing reflective materials. Lastly, avoid alcohol and drugs when planning to walk on roads or get on a bike.
What can Drivers Do to Keep Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safer?
Drivers who understand that pedestrians and bicyclists have the right to share the roads are often safer drivers. There are more signs out there than ever before, indicating who has the right of way. Speed limits should always be followed; they are lowered in certain areas to protect the people there. However, these are not the only places where pedestrians and bicyclists are found, so drivers should always be on the lookout.
Many of these accidents occur at crosswalks, so extra caution is recommended. The first thing to do when approaching is to slow down and be ready to stop. Drivers should stop far enough away from crosswalks to allow other drivers to see crossing pedestrians, and vehicles that are stopped at crosswalks should never be passed. Pedestrians and bicyclists are entitled to the right of way if there is no traffic signal.
Since pedestrians and bicyclists are out at all hours, drivers should also be careful at night. Though some walkers and bikers may not be wearing hi-visibility clothing, safety is a shared responsibility; even if someone is not acting in a safe manner, no one wants to get into a car accident. Backing up without checking first is a driver error, but sometimes it is hard to see someone, especially if they are moving quickly. Many vehicles have rear traffic warning systems that can detect pedestrians and cyclists, but hopefully with new technology on the horizon, this will be changing soon.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Support Safe Drivers
If you or someone you care for has been injured in any type of car accident, do not hesitate to contact the skilled Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. Complete our online form or call us at 757-LAW-0000 for a consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.