How to Prevent 39,000 Pedestrian-Car Crashes a Year

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says in its latest Status Report newsletter that the development and implementation of pedestrian-recognition technology for vehicles has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of crashes a year.

Advancements in the technology are being made by a number of car manufacturers, and Volvo has already implemented it in its S60 sedan.

“The best way to protect pedestrians is to separate them as much as possible from vehicle traffic,” says the IIHS chief research officer, David Zuby, in the report. But Zuby goes on to say that having pedestrians and vehicles in close proximity is inevitable, and that warning systems could help lessen the severity of crashes.

Aerial view of IIHS Vehicle Research Center

The IIHS's Vehicle Research Center in Virginia. (Photo Courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Car insurance providers and the public alike could benefit from the technology by making roads safer and reducing the rate of crash claims. Insurers typically pay for pedestrian-crash damages through the driver’s bodily injury liability and the pedestrian’s personal injury protection coverages.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 there were approximately 59,000 pedestrians injured and 5,000 killed in traffic crashes.

And a 2010 report from the New York City Department of Transportation indicated that pedestrian crashes cost that city’s economy $1.38 billion per year in medical, insurance and legal costs.

“Technology has the potential to avert many of these crashes altogether,” the authors of the report wrote. “Automakers are developing systems to spot pedestrians entering a vehicle’s path and to automatically brake if the driver fails to react.”

A major hurdle the IIHS points out in the report is adapting the technology to nighttime circumstances. According to the NHTSA, only 31 percent of pedestrian car-crash fatalities occurred during the day, when the recognition systems are most effective.

The IIHS is a research organization funded my member auto insurance companies. The full report can be accessed at

About Matthew Morisset
Matthew Morisset is a proud alumnus of the University of Redlands, where he obtained a degree in English Literature. Utilizing his passion for analysis and writing, Matthew looks for important trends in the auto insurance industry and their implications for consumers and the market as a whole.

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