Education And Debate

Designing road vehicles for pedestrian protection

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 11 May 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1145
  1. J R Crandall (, director,
  2. K S Bhalla, research associate,
  3. N J Madeley, orthopaedic research fellow
  1. Center for Applied Biomechanics, University of Virginia, 1011 Linden Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902 USA
  1. Correspondence to: J R Crandall

    Collisions between pedestrians and road vehicles present a major challenge for public health, trauma medicine, and traffic safety professionals. More than a third of the 1.2 million people killed and the 10 million injured annually in road traffic crashes worldwide are pedestrians.1 Compared with injured vehicle occupants, pedestrians sustain more multisystem injuries, with concomitantly higher injury severity scores and mortality.2 Although a disproportionately large number of these crashes occur in developing and transitional countries, pedestrian casualties also represent a huge societal cost in industrialised nations. In Britain pedestrian injuries are more than twice as likely to be fatal as injuries to vehicle occupants3 and result in an average cost to society of £57 400, nearly twice that of injuries to vehicle occupants.4

    Summary points

    Pedestrian-vehicle crashes are responsible for more than a third of all traffic related fatalities and injuries worldwide

    Lower limb trauma is the commonest pedestrian injury, while head injury is responsible for most pedestrian fatalities

    Standardised tests that simulate the most common pedestrian-vehicle crashes are being used to evaluate vehicle countermeasures to reduce pedestrian injury

    Energy absorbing components such as compliant bumpers, dynamically raised bonnets, and windscreen airbags are being developed for improved pedestrian protection

    Despite the size of the pedestrian injury problem, research to reduce traffic related injuries has concentrated almost exclusively on increasing the survival rates for vehicle occupants. Most attempts made to reduce pedestrian injuries have focused solely on isolation techniques such as pedestrian bridges, public education, and traffic regulations and have not included changes to vehicle design. The lack of effort devoted to vehicle modifications for pedestrian safety has stemmed primarily from a societal view that the injury caused by a large, rigid vehicle hitting a small, fragile pedestrian cannot be significantly reduced by alterations to the vehicle structure. Crash engineers, …

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