Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that pedestrian deaths in New Jersey and around the country have risen dramatically since 2010. The 7,485 pedestrians killed in 2021 was the highest death toll in four decades according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, and preliminary figures suggest that pedestrian accidents will claim even more lives in 2022. When polled about the worrying rise in pedestrian deaths, Americans have called for officials to do more and carmakers to install pedestrian detection technology and automatic braking systems in all new vehicles.
Pedestrian safety systems
Pedestrian safety features are already included as standard equipment on most cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in the United States. More than 80% of the vehicles tested by Consumer Reports in 2022 had technology that was designed to identify pedestrians in the roadway and brake automatically to avoid striking them. Only 2% of the cars tested by the organization had no pedestrian safety features at all. Vehicles that lack pedestrian safety technology are no longer eligible to be Consumer Reports Top 10 Picks, but studies reveal that these features may not work quite as well as carmakers claim.
When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluated the effectiveness of the pedestrian safety systems on dark roads in 2022, half of the vehicles tested received either no credit or were awarded just a basic score. Earlier tests conducted by the IIHS suggest that pedestrian detection and automatic braking systems could reduce pedestrian fatalities by up to 50% during the day but make little or no difference at night. This is worrying because about 75% of all auto-pedestrian accidents take place between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Relying on technology
The IIHS data is concerning because motorists tend to become less vigilant when they believe computers and cameras are taking care of routine driving chores for them. When automatic safety systems do not work very well when they are needed most, they could be making the roads more dangerous. Until pedestrian safety technology is improved, carmakers should make clear that these systems cannot be relied upon at night.