During vehicle-pedestrian collisions, the ones who really get the much needed protection are the passengers occupying the unit. Airbags, seatbelts and dashboards are some of the safety systems developed to lessen the risk of injuries and fatalities during crashes. However, for pedestrians, their only safety is their abilities to sense incoming danger and make the necessary moves to avoid getting hit by an oncoming vehicle.
In fact, over 4,000 fatalities and 70,000 injured persons due to pedestrian accidents are being reported in the United States every year. Victims are usually hit on their legs and thrown onto the hood, and their bodies slide until their heads hit onto windshield-wiper arms or the windshields, or even both.
This has moved US regulators to consider rules or incentives to increase the rate of survivability in pedestrian accidents. Carmakers are making their moves too. Honda Motor Co. and Volvo Cars are some carmakers making design changes that would also protect pedestrian from injuries or fatalities in case of accidents.
These changes include breakaway wipers, space between hoods and engines to absorb impact energy, as well as exterior airbags designed to protect a pedestrian's head from hitting the windshield. Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, remarked that when a pedestrian hit by a car does not need to become fatality. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of pedestrians killed in U.S. traffic crashes was 4,109 in 2009 and rose to 4,432 in 2011.
Around 14 percent of accident fatalities in 2011 were pedestrians. In Japan, pedestrian deaths account for a third of traffic fatalities. Doug Longhitano, a U.S.-based Honda safety research manager, said that these accidents have Honda to make design changes to vehicles it sells to the U.S.
Longhitano remarked that fenders on Honda or Acura models being sold in the US are offset from the frame to provide some limited cushion if a pedestrian is hit. The same is also true for hoods from engines. He said that the models’ windshield wipers are designed to break away so they don't stab or pierce a person on impact.