Buyers' Guide: Latest pedestrian safety measures
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Nearly one in 10 of those who die on New Zealand roads are pedestrians.
It’s worse across the ditch, where pedestrians represent 14 per cent of all road deaths.
Carmakers continue to improve vehicle-occupant protection and have developed a huge array of crash prevention technology. They’ve also made huge leaps to improve outcomes for pedestrians if they are struck by a car.
Although life-saving technology is available as standard on many new cars on the market today, many of us buy second-hand cars.
The average age of the New Zealand fleet is about 14 years, so it will take a while for this technology to flow through to all vehicles — but it is starting.
Most pedestrian crashes occur within urban areas with moderate speeds.
The head, lower body and legs are among the most frequently injured areas and the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (Ancap) runs a number of impact tests on new cars to assess the risk they possess to passers-by.
Pedestrian tests use headforms (adult and child) and legforms (upper leg and lower leg) instead of full crash-test dummies, to measure impact deceleration, and this is used to rate the severity of the impact.
The outcomes are scored good, adequate, marginal, weak or poor and this contributes towards the vehicle’s overall Ancap safety rating.
The manufacturers have two main approaches to improving pedestrian outcomes during impact.
Passive pedestrian protection systems are often carefully thought-out design features or materials integrated into the vehicle’s structure to reduce the risk of injury after impact.
Typical injuries that result from leg-to-bumper impacts include fractures to the leg, knee and damaged ligaments.
These kinds of injuries may not be fatal, but are often associated with permanent physical impairment so some manufacturers have adopted the use of crushable foam or aluminium inside the bumper to absorb more of the impact.
The shape of the bonnet’s leading edge can also play a critical role in the outcome of a vehicle impact with a pedestrian, and contribute to upper leg injuries to the pelvis and femur.
A more forgiving geometry that repositions “harder” points to lower positions can mitigate the risk of these types of injuries.
Manufacturers are also fast developing active technologies that deploy safety features on impact.
The Mazda MX-5 is one example of a car that boasts a pop-up bonnet that lifts when a pedestrian is struck to absorb impact and minimise injury.
The Volvo V40 features an external airbag that deploys from the base of the windscreen to cushion the impact between a pedestrian and the windscreen and A-pillars.
A major factor that influences pedestrian injury outcome during a collision is the vehicle speed at the point of impact.
Advanced driver assist systems such as AEB (automatic emergency braking) use camera and radar technology to detect pedestrians — and other objects nearby. AEB is designed to reduce the speed of the car before impact or even avoid it altogether.
When you get behind the wheel of a car, you are responsible for not only the safety of yourself and your passengers, but also for other road users, including pedestrians.
If you’re looking for a new vehicle and you want to see how it has fared in safety testing, visit the Ancap website (ancap.co.nz), search by make and model, and view the full technical report to get a sound idea of the car’s complete range of safety features.