• Dec 6, 2013
Pedestrian Safety Design
Techsplanations: Front End Pedestrian Safety Design

For decades, engineers have worked diligently to make people safer inside their vehicles. But more recently, safety engineers and designers have begun to make people safer outside of vehicles in the event of a collision.

Pedestrian safety design hopes to curb the more than 4,000 people killed every year in the United States. While there are no requirements for pedestrian safety in America, Europe has a growing number of rules and regulations carmakers must meet. Since many vehicles are sold in both the U.S. and Europe, those safety features arrive in America.

Unlike other safety engineering that is typically not seen, pedestrian safety design directly impacts the exterior styling of a vehicle and can sometimes work against other safety features.

For example, many cars now come with lower front ends, which may make them look faster, but also helps if a pedestrian is hit. If struck, a pedestrian is pushed up onto the car instead of smashed into it. (Pickups and SUVs often do poorly in pedestrian safety testing because of their bigger bumpers and higher front ends cause more impact on a pedestrian.)

Since a pedestrian struck by a vehicle is lifted up onto the hood, designers and engineers have created ways to lesson a person's impact on the hood. In particular, they've looked at ways to cushion a blow to the head upon impact with the car.

Designers have engineered more space between the hood and the engine, allowing more give in case of a collision. From a design perspective, the higher hood, especially closer toward the windshield, gives vehicles a distinctive look. About 10 years ago, Volvo created a 3-inch gap between the hood and the top of the engine. (Another feature that is worked into pedestrian safety is an engine's plastic cover, which also gives in a pedestrian accident.)

Other less noticeable design elements include the removal of hood ornaments, which could snag or cut pedestrians; side mirrors that fold in toward the door, and even door handles that are more flush with the car's sheet metal.

Another challenge is creating exterior items that can break away when a pedestrian hits them but still function correctly. For instance, windshield wipers are often tucked down under the higher hood, but still created to break off if a pedestrian hits them.

Other changes to help pedestrians work against the vehicle in other accidents. Engineers have designed bumpers that are softer on impact for pedestrians. But initially, that did not help cars in other crashes, so designers had to find an acceptable medium.

Obviously, it's a difficult task to create a 4,000-pound vehicle that doesn't injure or kill a person if it hits him or her at speed. But using things like advanced crash test dummies and finding ways to mitigate the damage a vehicle can do to a person is a good start.


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  • 48 Comments
      BERNIE
      • 1 Year Ago
      My car was sitting in the driveway started up all by its self an ran over someone............
      Kent
      • 1 Year Ago
      The problem with a pedestrian-safe hood is that the hood is often higher, and looks a bit ungainly, because the hood now doesn't curve gracefully into the fender. So, with the higher roof, the belt line (where side glass meets the doors) is higher. Because the hood is higher, then the wheel wells are bigger, to get the proportions right. Then, you have to go to bigger tires and wheels, to fill the wheel well. I tend to think that regardless of speed, a pedestrian hit by a car will either die or suffer significant injuries that could create some permanent health concerns. Perhaps the better solution is for pedestrians to stop yakking, texting, and web surfing on their smartphones and pay attention to walking. I know someone who was badly hurt, because while texting, his shoe hit some broken sidewalk, and he tripped. Not only did he fracture his elbow, but his phone was smashed to bits.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Oops. I meant "nervous"...
      Larry
      • 1 Year Ago
      That is all well and good , But I live in a small town called NYC . So I base my opinion on what i have been seeing more and more over the years . Not all blame should go to the motorist when an accident occurs . People today are plugged in to some kind of a device or another . They walking , texting , talking , e-mailing , playibg games, even do some kind of work all at the same time . But they are not paying attention to traffic or anything else for that matter . And yet when hit one of these drones (people) you as the motorist is a fault . I understand children will be children , but my anger about this is mainly towards adults ! As a person that drives a large truck in NYC everyday I have to deal with cars , busses,other trucks , and taxis ( don't get me started on taxis ) and now with bikes that should not be on busy city streets anyway . If you live here you know , and if you don't come vist us and you can see for yourself . All I am saying is that if your over 18 You should have to take some responeabilty too ! Because you can't fix stupid !
      Linda
      • 1 Year Ago
      IF pedestrians would cross the road wheer they aresupposed to, they wouldn't get hit.
      MASTER SHAIN
      • 1 Year Ago
      ...again we see lawmakers making ridiculous requirements on businesses to try and protect the people who want no personal responsibility for their actions...i.e. those who walk/ride around not paying attention to their surroundings or walk/ride where they should`nt but want everyone else to pay for their mistakes(the entitlement mentality).
        mphseason
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MASTER SHAIN
        No Einstein....kids/people on bikes, whom are doing everything correctly, people still run them over.....ask those bikers whom died this summer on a cross country bike ride.....
      • 7 Months Ago
      I guess this is why all cars and trucks look alike and we are getting all of these vehicles with cheap plastic bumpers that break if you actually "bump" something with them. The worst is four wheel drive vehicles that are supposedly designed for "off road" use that have all of this plastic crap on them, If you actually take them off road that stuff is going to get ripped off in short order.
      diroleman
      • 1 Year Ago
      If more people would LEARN how to DRIVE and not allow themselves to be distracted by electronics or "safety" features in the vehicle, more accidents would be prevented. Granted, these changes will mitigate/lessen the RESULTS of an accident with a pedestrian, but they won't PREVENT an accident from happening! It is the DRIVER's responsibility to pay attention to what (s)he is doing while driving NOT to be using their phone or watching the GPS or fiddling with the audio system located in the center of the vehicle dashboard where it causes a driver to tremove their attention from the roadway!
        msmith6791
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diroleman
        .......and slow down at intersections or crosswalks? [and just don't speed anywhere?] Actually, some people will disagree with me but I honk my horn a lot - especially when I get into confined areas where I can't tell what is coming from either sign - I honk my horn at least twice (never got in trouble when doing that)
      tbplayer44
      • 1 Year Ago
      Anti-crash warnings... rear view cameras... auto parallel park. yeah... the problem in America is not that people can no longer drive a car carefully and safely, but that there isnt enough computer controlled crap. Who does one sue the first time one of these systems fails, and a life is lost due to reliance on a computer, over mindful control, of a two-ton weapon of death? If you need this much technology to operate a motor vehicle, do us all a favor.... ride the bus!
      George
      • 1 Year Ago
      I drive a large pickup yruck with a loud exhaust and air horns. If you cant hear or see me comming before your dumm ass walks carelessly into the road nowher neer a crosswalk or light or intersection then you deserv to be run down. I am not going to slam on my brakes and get rear ended for your dumm ass!
      mgnficntoz
      • 1 Year Ago
      Don't mistake the guy in the blue sweats and vacant stare standing in the crosswalk as if he didn't have a care in the world for a dummy. It's an every day liberal. Hmmmm......let me try and rephrase that...........
        Mr Focus
        • 10 Months Ago
        @mgnficntoz
        Don't mistake the clever **** with the keyboard for someone with any sort of actual sense just because he's laughing at his own idiotic nonsequiturs.
      rseas
      • 1 Year Ago
      What about tractor trailers where bumpers are way over the height of an average auto. Same for SUV's and pick-up trucks. My wife was sandwiched between a pick-up and a SUV last year in Her Mid Sized Honda Accord. Air bags never went off because the other vehicle's height over-road the sensors. Damage to my wife's car was $23,000.00. The other vehicles.....ZIP.
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