Over the past few decades, cars have become more sophisticated. Many changes have been safety related, such as airbags and anti-lock braking systems. Despite these improvements, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that pedestrian accidents soared by 54 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This sharp rise in pedestrian accidents has led to calls for automakers to improve protections for pedestrians. In a recent survey sponsored by Consumer Reports, 68 percent of people agreed that pedestrian detection systems should be required on new vehicles. However, current technology has limitations, such as not performing well after dark.
Fortunately, every time you get behind the wheel, you have access to the most powerful “technology” available to prevent pedestrian injuries and deaths: your brain. Engaging your mind is one important way to avoid a serious car accident.
Stay focused around crosswalks, buses and school zones
Your first line of defense is to pay attention in the places where we are often tempted to hurry. Always stop well behind a crosswalk. Never pass a car stopped at a crosswalk – you may not be able to see pedestrians already in the walk.
Some of the most vulnerable pedestrians are also the youngest. Drive the speed limit in school zones. Always stop when you see a school bus with a stop sign out. Young pedestrians may also still be learning the safest places to walk, so keep your eyes open when backing out of a parking spot or your driveway.
Double-down on defeating distractions
Interestingly, 55 percent of Consumer Reports survey respondents were concerned that the warning sounds or lights associated with pedestrian-detection technology on cars might create distractions for drivers. The simplest way to avoid driving distractions is to accept that driving should command your entire attention when behind the wheel.
Specifically, drivers should:
- Never driving drunk, “buzzed,” or under the influence of drugs
- Adjusting audio controls only when you are stopped
- Avoiding answering phone calls while you’re driving – even if you have hands-free technology
- Looking out for pedestrians everywhere – especially in places you wouldn’t expect them, such as crossing the road between stoplights
Car manufacturers will continue to design vehicles for increased safety. In the meantime, avoiding pedestrian accidents is possible by using the amazing technology between our ears.