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Car Accidents

Automotive Product Liability for Pedestrian Impacts

Pedestrians are dying on American roads in greater numbers every year, and automotive companies are refusing to necessary actions in the development and testing of their vehicles to address this problem. Over the last decade, pedestrian deaths have steady risen.  In 2018, 6,283 pedestrians were killed; a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. This is also the highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1990. Even more shocking, cyclist fatalities have increased by 6.3 percent.

A significant factor to the rise in pedestrian deaths is the size of the vehicle fleet on the roadways. In 2019, light trucks (which includes SUVs) made up 72 percent of the market. That is up from 57 percent just five years ago. The vehicles in America are getting vehicles are larger, heavier and come with more distractions than ever before.

Since 2016, the European and Japanese New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP) have tested for pedestrian safety. There is also an international standard, established in 2008, to require vehicle bumpers and hoods to have absorption capabilities to limit pedestrian injuries in the event of a crash. In theory, the United States should be requiring automotive manufacturers to meet this international standard, since it was approved by the United Nations. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) never implemented the standards and automotive manufacturers likewise ignored the requirements.

In 2015 NHTSA issued a “request for comment” on possible new rules for crash testing relating to pedestrian safety and requiring automakers to design bumpers and hoods to absorb pedestrian impacts. However, NHTSA officials informed the Government Accountability Office that the proposed rules were withdrawn because the agencies’ “priorities [] shifted since publication of the 2015 Request for Comments . . .  after the administration changed.”

The consequence to all of this is that the automotive manufacturers know more pedestrians are dying as a result of the design of their vehicles but refuse to do anything about it.