Large, sturdy vehicles such as pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) have grown in popularity in recent years because of their size and the fact that consumers feel much safer and more protected if a serious car accident occurs. Advanced safety technology equipped in most newer models, combined with the heavier, larger frame is effective at protecting vehicle occupants from the impact of a crash. However, the size and weight of these larger vehicles are what makes them so deadly if a pedestrian is struck by an SUV or pickup truck. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), pedestrians are two to three times more likely to suffer a fatality when hit by an SUV or pickup truck compared with being struck by a sedan or other smaller passenger vehicle. The Biden administration plans to reverse that trend by issuing updates to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which will encourage automobile manufacturers to design vehicles that are less threatening to pedestrians and bicyclists.
According to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 6,590 people were fatally injured on or along U.S. roads in 2019, which is a five percent increase from 2018. Even though the latest advances in safety technology have made vehicles safer than ever, pedestrian injuries and fatalities have been steadily rising over the past few years. A widely recognized expert in traffic safety who authored several reports on pedestrian traffic fatalities for the Governors Highway Safety Association warned that pedestrians are at a major disadvantage if they are struck by a car, truck, or SUV. Unfortunately, recent data indicates that after 30 years of declining pedestrian fatalities, there has been an unfortunate reversal of progress.
What Updates are Being Made to the NCAP?
The NCAP is the government’s premier consumer information program for evaluating vehicle safety performance. It is also the federal program that developed crash test dummies, which are used to estimate the likelihood of injuries or fatalities to real people in the event of a car accident. The NHTSA tried to modernize the NCAP during the Obama administration. They proposed revisions to the program, which included an evaluation of the vehicle’s risk to pedestrians. The proposed changes were not finalized while President Obama was still in office, and the Trump administration did not move them forward. According to the president of Advocates for Highway Auto and Safety, there was no reason why the changes should be held up. President Biden will be able to reshape the program now that he is in office, and the process should not take long because the revisions do not require congressional approval. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) can issue a new guidance in the Federal Register, which can be accomplished in a matter of months.
Once the adjustments to the NCAP are made, automakers will likely update their vehicle designs to make them safer for pedestrians. Examples of new safety features may include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, pedestrian airbags, better designed front ends, and brighter headlights. In addition, vehicle designs may incorporate extra space between the hood and engine components to absorb some of the impact if a collision occurs.
Why are SUVs More Dangerous to Pedestrians?
Many features that make SUVs safer for vehicle occupants are the same ones that make them so dangerous for pedestrians, starting with their size. The larger the vehicle, the greater the blind spots. A pedestrian is more likely to get caught in an SUV’s blind spot as compared with a small sports car. This can have deadly consequences if the SUV driver does not see the pedestrian, particularly if the SUV is moving at a high speed. In addition, SUVs have a higher center of gravity, which means that if the vehicle hits a pedestrian, he or she will be hit in the chest or head, rather than the legs, which often causes more catastrophic injuries. In addition, the injured pedestrian could end up underneath the SUV. As a result, their injuries are more likely to be severe or even fatal.
What Types of Injuries Do Pedestrian Accidents Cause?
Unfortunately, when a pedestrian is hit by a car, the resulting injuries are rarely minor. When this vehicle is a truck or an SUV, injuries are catastrophic. The following are examples of common pedestrian accident injuries:
- Fractures and broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Emotional trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What Steps are Being Taken to Improve Safety for Pedestrians?
To protect pedestrians and bicyclists, many city transportation officials are implementing programs that will make it safer for those walking and biking to share the road with motor vehicles. For example, in cities across the United States, safety officials will be installing protected bike lanes, lowering speed limits, and painting road murals. Unfortunately, at the federal level, little has been done, even as the death toll has climbed. This is a problem because, although city transportation officials can make certain changes and improvements, the USDOT regulates the design of automobiles, which have become much bigger, heavier, and more deadly when a pedestrian is involved in an accident. The USDOT has taken no major steps to urge automobile manufacturers to design safer vehicles. In November 2020, the agency released a pedestrian action plan that included launching a Pedestrian Safety Month, as well as several other safety initiatives. However, critics believed there was too much emphasis on education and not enough on regulation.
What Can Pedestrians Do to Avoid Getting Hit by a Car?
Pedestrians are always urged to use extra caution and be aware of their surroundings, particularly when crossing the street or walking in areas where there is heavy traffic. Keeping the following safety tips in mind can help prevent a tragic pedestrian accident:
- Pedestrians should understand and follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic signs as they pertain to pedestrians.
- Those on foot should always walk on sidewalks if they are available.
- If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians are urged to walk facing traffic, but as far away from oncoming traffic as possible.
- Distractions should be avoided, including making or sending a phone call, and reading a text message. One moment of distraction can have tragic consequences if a pedestrian walks into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
- Pedestrians should cross streets only at a crosswalk or an intersection where motorists are more likely to anticipate pedestrians and use extra caution. If there is no crosswalk, make sure there are no cars coming from either direction before crossing the street. Pedestrians should continue to watch for traffic as they cross the street.
- Pedestrians should never assume that motorists see them. A pedestrian should make eye contact with the driver before approaching the vehicle or crossing the street.
- When walking on a busy street, pedestrians should make sure that they are easily visible to motorists. That means wearing bright clothing during the day, and reflective gear at night. Carrying a flashlight is also a good idea when walking at night.
- Pedestrians should use extra caution when walking near a driveway, alley, or parking lot. Cars backing out may not see a pedestrian, particularly if he or she is in the vehicle’s blind spot.
- Pedestrians under the influence of drugs or alcohol should avoid walking, particularly on busy streets with a lot of traffic.
How can Other Motorists Prevent Pedestrian Accidents?
All drivers must obey the rules of the road and pay attention to their surroundings. Motorists are urged to remember the following safety tips when there are pedestrians in the vicinity:
- Extreme caution must be used when driving at night or during inclement weather. Pedestrians may be difficult to see.
- When approaching a crosswalk, drivers should slow down and be prepared to stop.
- Drivers must always yield to pedestrians. Motorists should come to a complete stop well before the crosswalk so other motorists see there are pedestrians crossing the street.
- Drivers should never pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk.
- Speed limits must be obeyed, particularly when sharing the road with pedestrians or cyclists.
- Caution should be used when backing out of a driveway, alley, or parking lot.
- Motorists should avoid driving while distracted, drowsy, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Advocate for Victims of Pedestrian Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a pedestrian accident involving an SUV, a truck, or other large vehicle, please contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law. We understand how devastating these accidents can be and the physical, emotional, and financial impact they can have. We will walk you through every step of the claims process, address all your questions and concerns, and ensure that you receive the appropriate financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
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