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.
Volvo's IntelliSafe safety philosophy includes a number of technologies like Pedestrian Airbag Technology, Pedestrian Detection and City Safety. These are complemented on the Volvo V40 by new safety features like a Cross Traffic Alert radar system and enhanced Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). Cross Traffic Alert allows drivers to detect traffic coming from the side or reverse from a parking space. BLIS meanwhile, is a radar-based technology that doesn’t just provide warning when there are vehicles coming from the blind spot, but also warns of vehicles fast approaching from the rear.
The carmaker has a reputation for building environment-friendly vehicles, thanks to the fact that around a third of its research and development funds is funneled for cutting carbon dioxide emissions. One of the recipients of this effort is the Volvo V40, which is equipped with a 1.6-liter D2 engine fitted with a three-way catalytic converter with lambda sensor. This allows the V40 – riding on 205/55 R16 wheels -- to emit just 94 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. At this class-leading emission level, the Volvo V40 offers more value in terms of company car taxation, road tax and residential parking.
Stefan Jacoby, Volvo's president and chief executive, remarked that since the V40 is the company’s first C-segment five-door hatchback, they expect most customers to be new to the brand. He added that the V40 would lead its class in terms of driving dynamics, safety, design and fuel economy. He remarked that the V40 is a perfect representation of the carmaker’s “Designed Around You” philosophy, noting that the hatchback is easy to use, intuitive to handle and keeps the driver connected.