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Car Design Impacts Pedestrian Safety

A car, truck or SUV hits a pedestrian 70,000 times per year in the U.S., but only about 6% are fatal crashes. That’s a remarkably low number of fatalities, considering the severity of the impact of a 4,000 lb. car on a human body – and it’s partially due to big changes made by auto manufacturers.

Pedestrian safety design features have been factored into the exterior design of motor vehicles in some unexpected ways.

Motor vehicle hood impacts are the cause of 40% of child head injuries and nearly 20% percent of adult head injuries in pedestrian accidents, according to an Edmunds report. Newer cars have hoods that are designed to absorb the impact, and cushion the head by adding more space between the hood and the engine.

Bumpers, which used to be solid structures, are now made with plastic and a space to diminish the impact if the car strikes a person or a cyclist. Lower, slightly angled front ends push pedestrians onto the vehicle, instead of crushing them with a huge bumper. In this respect, trucks and SUVs with bigger bumpers and higher front ends still do poorly in pedestrian safety testing.

Even minor changes, like side mirrors that bend in toward the door or removing sharp hood ornaments, can make it less likely for a pedestrian or cyclist to sustain serious injuries from a car collision.

Overall, continuing improvements to front-end vehicle design will are expected to reduce pedestrian fatality and serious injury in the coming years. To learn more, watch the video on safety design here.

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