Effectiveness of Pedestrian Detection Sensors on Cars

Along with all the other safety features available on new cars, pedestrian detection systems are proving to be effective at reducing car vs. pedestrian crashes, but cannot be relied on to completely replace driver and pedestrian attentiveness. We explain how these systems work and what drivers need to do to avoid hitting pedestrians—with or without this safety technology.

How Pedestrian Detection Systems Work

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,376 pedestrians were killed and over 70,000 were injured in traffic accidents in 2015. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 1.6 hours and injured every 7.5 minutes in the U.S. that year. Clearly, pedestrians are in danger, and drivers need to do more to protect them. Car manufacturers have stepped up to help by offering systems that detect pedestrians and bicyclists and warn the driver.

The systems vary by manufacturer, but in general, they do the following:

  • A camera mounted behind the rearview mirror scans the path in front of the car for subtle movement. Some cars also use a radar system.
  • The system either alerts the driver with a beep or another alarm, or automatically applies the brakes to avoid a collision.
  • The systems are designed to work at slow speeds and may be ineffective over 25 mph.
  • Some manufacturers are developing infrared technology to improve performance, especially at night.

It’s important to understand how the system on your car works and how the car will respond when there’s an obstacle. Don’t assume the system will work at higher speeds, or that it’s a replacement for your awareness.

How Effective Are These Systems?

Because pedestrian detection systems are relatively new, there’s not a lot of data about their effectiveness. Early systems tested by Consumer Reports returned mixed results.

However, a 2017 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center found that systems will be effective at preventing pedestrian crashes.

The study concluded pedestrian crash avoidance/mitigation (PCAM) systems can potentially prevent 5,000 crashes and 810 fatalities each year. This is a crash reduction rate of 8 percent and a fatality reduction rate of 24 percent. These numbers are significant and encouraging, but not all cars have this technology and the systems aren’t perfect.

What Drivers Should Do to Prevent Pedestrian Crashes

Whether you have a PCAM system in your car or not, it’s still important to take precautions where pedestrians may be present. In most cases, it doesn’t matter if the pedestrian suddenly steps in front of your car, is texting and walking, or is drunk. As a driver, you must still do everything you can to avoid hitting him or her.

AAA offers the following must-dos for drivers in pedestrian-heavy areas:

  • Watch for pedestrians at all times. This means scanning the side of the road as well as ahead. As a driver, you’re responsible for the safety of others. Pedestrians—especially children—can dart out of nowhere and you must be alert to avoid them.
  • Follow posted speed limits. Speed limits often drop to 25 miles per hour because of the possible presence of pedestrians. If you’re speeding through town, you won’t be able to avoid hitting someone crossing the street.
  • Always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and scan the roadside for people preparing to cross. Never pass a car stopped at a crosswalk.
  • Never drive under the influence. Drunk or drugged drivers are more likely to hit pedestrians. With slowed reaction times and weakened senses, intoxicated drivers put pedestrians in great danger.

If You’re Hit by a Car, Get Legal Help

Despite advanced safety systems on cars, flashing pedestrian crosswalks, and lower speed limits in downtown areas, pedestrians are still injured at an alarming rate. If you were hurt by a car while crossing the street, call our office. We’ll make sure the driver is held accountable and that you get the settlement you deserve.

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