West Virginia residents who have shopped for a new vehicle recently may have seen or test driven a model that included pedestrian detection systems or automatic braking features. These are just some of the new vehicle technologies being touted as dramatically improving safety.
There is good reason to want such systems. A report by The Verge indicated that pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. have been on the rise. These fatalities are even more pronounced in accidents involving SUVs. In the 10 years between 2009 and 2018, pedestrian deaths from accidents with SUVs spiked by 81%.
Before rushing out to purchase a vehicle with pedestrian detection and automatic braking capabilities, however, some research is important. AutoWeek indicates that a AAA study of some 2019 vehicles with these features found that pedestrian dummies were hit in the vast majority of test scenarios. The best-case scenario involved an adult dummy crossing in front of the vehicle in broad daylight. The vehicle would travel at a maximum of 20 miles per hour. In these tests, the pedestrian dummy was hit by the vehicle six out of every 10 times.
When a vehicle made a right turn onto a street with an adult dummy, also in daylight hours, the dummy was hit every single time. The advanced safety features were declared completely ineffective at night. In nearly nine out of 10 times, a child-sized dummy was hit after running out from between vehicles in the path of a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour in daylight. While good in theory, it seems that the safety features on new vehicles have a long way to go to truly keep people safe.