Over one-third of fatal pedestrian crashes happen at night or on unlit roads.  -  Photo:  unsplash.com/Timo Wagner

Over one-third of fatal pedestrian crashes happen at night or on unlit roads.

Photo: unsplash.com/Timo Wagner

More than one-third of fatal pedestrian crashes occur at night or on unlit roads. This critical fact along with recent disappointing study findings has prompted the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) to press federal regulators to raise the bar on pedestrian automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.

Specifically, IIHS and HLDI have urged regulators to require automakers to equip all new passenger vehicles with AEB systems capable of detecting and avoiding pedestrians in the dark as well as in daylight.

Recent studies show that current pedestrian AEB systems don't work well in dark settings. The technology has proven to be very beneficial during the daytime, but it’s simply not cutting it at night. For example, a study by IIHS found that the systems reduce pedestrian crashes in daylight or on well-lit roads, but they have virtually no effect at night or on unlit roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to initiate rulemaking by 2024 that would require pedestrian AEB on new passenger vehicles. It’s not clear what performance standards will be included. IIHS and HLDI are urging the agency not to overlook the importance of systems that can function well on dark roads.

Pedestrian fatalities continue to rise at an alarming rate. There were 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020 — a 4.8% increase from the 6,412 fatalities the year prior despite a 13.2% decrease in vehicle miles traveled in 202O due to the pandemic, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

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