Whether we walk to work or walk from our car into the grocery store, all of us are pedestrians at some point. And, pedestrian deaths are on the rise with last year reaching a 30-year high. More than 6,000 people are dying each year in pedestrian accidents and thousands more are seriously injured. Experts believe several factors are contributing to the increase in pedestrian deaths. And while new vehicle technology claims to help prevent pedestrian accidents, recent testing by AAA shows otherwise.
States and local governments are trying to reduce pedestrian accidents. Many of them are lowering speed limits, redesigning intersections and installing more crosswalks. But unfortunately, pedestrian deaths keep climbing. Experts believe several factors have contributed to the increase. First, and it is probably not a surprise, distracted driving continues to cause pedestrian accidents. Second, consumers are buying more and more SUVs as opposed to passenger cars, and in a pedestrian collision, an SUV causes more harm than a passenger car. So when a collision does occur, the SUV is more likely to result in a fatality.
In response, the auto industry has introduced technology designed to prevent pedestrian accidents. You may have seen some of the advertisements on television. Hyundai, Volkswagen, Volvo and others have ads that show their vehicles sensing and preventing a pedestrian accident. For instance, the Hyundai commercial shows two girls riding in a vehicle in Ryanville (a fantasy city composed entirely of Ryan Reynolds look-alikes). The driver and the passenger both have their heads craned around to check out a group of Ryans playing football and are not even remotely watching the road, but yet the car stops suddenly on its own and avoids an accident with a Ryan Reynolds walking dogs. To be sure, it is a cute commercial but some experts think it could mislead drivers into thinking the vehicle can do more than it actually can to prevent pedestrian accidents especially at night.
AAA recently tested the pedestrian detection systems in the Chevrolet Malibu, the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Tesla Model 3. The testing replicated two of the most dangerous situations for pedestrians: a child darting out from between two parked cars and a pedestrian crossing an intersection at night as a vehicle turns right. None of the vehicle’s performed well. At 20 mph, the child was struck 89% of the time and the pedestrian crossing the intersection with a car turning right was hit every single time. At 30 mph, all of the vehicles failed both scenarios. AAA found the systems completely ineffective at night, which is also the deadliest time for pedestrians. Fatal pedestrian accidents increase 45% at night.
In response to the testing, all of the manufacturers (except Tesla who did not respond at all) pointed to language in their owner’s manuals which recommends drivers pay attention and maintain control at all time and that the technology does not replace the driver’s responsibility. Fair enough, but is that what is really being depicted in the ads? At least in the Hyundai ad, it certainly is not. So if you own a vehicle with this technology, be aware of its significant limitations.
And, of course, all drivers should continue to follow these basic safety practices:
- Slow down;
- Put your phone down (it is now against the law in Tennessee to even be holding your phone while driving);
- Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Watch out for pedestrians especially in residential areas and school zones where children are likely to be present, at intersections and at night.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, we may be able to help. Call our office for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. Our award-winning lawyers represent injury victims and their families on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid if we recover money for you. For decades, we have been privileged to help pedestrian accident victims and their families and we are here to help you too. Give us a call at any of the numbers below: