The safety of vehicles on the road is a critical concern for regulators, manufacturers, and consumers alike. Over the years, various rating systems have been developed to evaluate and communicate the safety performance of cars. These systems aim to provide consumers with information about crashworthiness, occupant protection, and other important safety features.
Recently, there has been growing discussion about the introduction of a new pass-fail rating system specifically focused on pedestrian safety. This proposed system would evaluate vehicles based on their ability to mitigate risks and prevent accidents involving pedestrians, potentially ushering in a new era of enhanced safety standards for automobiles. The new system poses several new challenges, however, that could affect the automotive industry as well as the uniformity of safety across all car manufacturers.
What is the pass/fail system?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) aims to address the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities by evaluating vehicles based on their ability to mitigate pedestrian collisions. Under the proposed system, vehicles would undergo tests involving various pedestrian scenarios, and those that meet the safety standards would receive a passing rating. The NHTSA believes that implementing this rating system will incentivize automakers to prioritize pedestrian safety features in their vehicle designs. The proposal has garnered support from safety advocates who believe it will encourage the adoption of advanced safety technologies. However, some industry experts express concerns about the potential challenges and costs associated with meeting the proposed standards. The NHTSA is currently seeking public comments on the proposal before finalizing the pedestrian safety rating system.
What are the problems with this new rating system?
While improving pedestrian safety measures in vehicles is a great goal, we’re not sure a pass/fail system of rating is the best way to approach this problem.
The main issue with this new rating system is that it does not factor into the five-star rating program that vehicles receive. While a car dealer may advertise the five-star rating their cars have, they may decline to mention the pass-fail rating system for pedestrian safety. Mike McGinn, the executive director of America Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group, said he was concerned about an aspect of the proposal that would only post the pedestrian safety ratings on NHTSA’s website, and not on the vehicle with other details about the vehicle.
“However NHTSA measures vehicle safety for pedestrians, it should be shared at the point of sale, not buried in a government website,” McGinn said. Currently, “buried in a government website” would be the only way to view a vehicle’s pedestrian safety rating. It is fair to say that most people know about the five-star rating, but few would know about the pedestrian safety rating, assuming it to be included in the original rating system.
Additionally, there may be challenges related to the standardization and certification processes. Establishing consistent testing procedures and performance criteria for pedestrian safety across different vehicle models and manufacturers can be complex. Ensuring that the proposed rating system is fair, accurate, and reliable requires careful consideration and coordination among regulatory bodies, automakers, and other stakeholders.
Furthermore, there could be challenges in keeping up with rapidly evolving technology. As new advancements in autonomous driving and vehicle-to-pedestrian communication emerge, it may be necessary to update the rating system to reflect these advancements. This would require ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and potential revisions to ensure the effectiveness of the rating system over time.
The elephant in the room: the epidemic that’s killing pedestrians
Ratings systems, whether pass/fail or not, do not address the biggest risk to pedestrians: vehicle size and design. In an article released by cnet, findings of a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveal the increased danger large trucks and SUVs pose to pedestrians while making turns. The study indicates that pedestrians face a higher risk of severe injuries or fatalities when involved in crashes with these types of vehicles compared to cars. The IIHS analyzed real-world crash data from 2005 to 2019 and found that the height and design of trucks and SUVs contribute to reduced visibility for drivers and increased vulnerability for pedestrians.
According to the study, the elevated front-end design of trucks and SUVs creates a “blunt” zone that increases the likelihood of pedestrians being struck in the head or upper body during collisions. Additionally, the higher ride height of these vehicles can result in a more severe impact for pedestrians, especially children or shorter individuals. The study emphasizes the need for improved safety measures and design modifications in large trucks and SUVs to address these risks and enhance pedestrian protection.
The IIHS suggests that implementing technologies like automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection systems could help mitigate these risks. By detecting pedestrians and applying brakes if a potential collision is detected, these technologies could potentially reduce the severity of crashes and save lives. The findings of the study highlight the importance of addressing the specific challenges posed by large trucks and SUVs to improve pedestrian safety on the roads.
With manufacturers still debating about the best way to keep pedestrians safe, these large vehicles are still injuring bicyclists and pedestrians far too often. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Washington State, the car accident lawyers at Philbrook Law Office are ready to assist you. Our dedicated team of attorneys is experienced in handling claims against various parties involved, including drivers, car owners, and car manufacturers. We are committed to seeking justice for our clients and offer services in filing negligence claims, product liability claims, and wrongful death claims.
To learn more about how we can help you, please contact our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA by giving us a call, or using our contact page. We offer free consultations for those wishing to explore their options.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.