Pop-up car bonnets will help reduce pedestrian deaths

Road vehicles may soon be fitted with pop-up bonnets, windscreen airbags and energy absorbing bumpers to improve pedestrian safety, according to researchers in this week’s BMJ.

Collisions between pedestrians and road vehicles are responsible for more than a third of all traffic related fatalities and injuries worldwide, yet research has so far concentrated almost exclusively on increasing the survival of vehicle occupants, argue researchers at the University of Virginia, USA.

Crash engineers, however, have long been aware that the same principles of car safety design that have produced enormous benefits for vehicle occupants can be extended to provide a safer environment for pedestrians during impact with a vehicle. For instance, dynamically raised bonnets and windscreen air bags can reduce head injury, while energy absorbing bumpers can reduce injury to the lower limbs.

Tests for assessing the pedestrian injury potential of vehicles are now underway, and a voluntary agreement proposed by European automotive manufacturers stipulates that all new car types introduced after 2010 should comply with these pedestrian safety test requirements.

If vehicles are required to comply with these recommendations, estimated reductions in pedestrian fatalities should exceed 20%, conclude the authors.

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