In what it says is its first full consideration of pedestrian safety since the 1970s, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report that said poor visibility of people walking around and near moving vehicles remains a serious problem, and that vehicle lighting improvements and sensors may enhance pedestrian safety.

The NTSB launched its investigation into pedestrian safety in May 2016. It investigated a series of 15 fatal crashes in which vehicles on public highways killed pedestrians. Several recommendations target data needs that the NTSB said will better guide the implementation of countermeasures and to gauge the effectiveness of programmatic efforts.

In 2016 when it began its work, an average of 15 pedestrians were killed by automobiles each day in the U.S. That average now stands at 16 each day, the NTSB said.

Sensors to Alert Drivers

In one accident included in the investigation, a New York City transit bus struck and killed a pedestrian at an intersection in October 2016. The pedestrian was in a crosswalk when she was struck by the bus, which was making a left-hand turn.

The NTSB report said that the 2012 Nova Bus Arctic low-floor articulated bus was not equipped with an S-1 Gard system, a danger-zone deflector that can be installed under a bus to deflect a body that has fallen under it. Transit officials reportedly had considered adding the device to its buses but decided against it, saying that it would be more effective to keep buses from hitting pedestrians in the first place.

The NTSB report offered multiple recommendations to enhance pedestrian safety around vehicles. Source: Crosswalk of Market at Third, San Francisco.jpgThe NTSB report offered multiple recommendations to enhance pedestrian safety around vehicles. Source: Crosswalk of Market at Third, San Francisco.jpgTo help it achieve that goal, the NTSB said that the transit agency is installing the TurnWarning pedestrian warning system. It said that the system has a built-in turn-recognition component. When it senses a turn, it audibly warns pedestrians of the maneuver. A system log records the date, time and location where announcements are made.

A second system uses sensors to scan the area near the bus to detect pedestrians and bicycles, then produces an audible warning to the bus driver. The NTSB said that the transit authority plans to expand the system to include an automatic deceleration/collision detection system.


In addition to the accident reports, the NTSB report offers a dozen recommendations to enhance pedestrian safety around motor vehicles.

1. Vehicle headlight systems require an evaluation that is more advanced than bench testing of bulb output.

2. Motor vehicle safety standards should not limit advanced vehicle lighting systems that have been shown to have safety benefits.

3. Incorporating pedestrian injury mitigation into vehicle hood and bumper designs would improve pedestrian safety.

4. For different automated pedestrian safety systems to be compared, there needs to be a standard set of test conditions to rate their performance.

5. The public would benefit from knowing that the model vehicle they are considering for purchase has pedestrian-safe design characteristics, and their choices could in turn affect the implementation of pedestrian safety systems in new car designs.

6. Effective street designs for pedestrian safety are highly context-dependent and should be managed by local interests; however, states and cities would benefit from resources, tools and funding support to develop and implement effective plans.

7. The design guidance needed to develop effective pedestrian safety action plans is readily available to local transportation planners.

8. Addressing the pedestrian safety design changes needed for many of our urban environments will take substantially more resources.

9. Planners need localized pedestrian data to support the decision-making process for urban pedestrian plans and to prioritize infrastructure projects; in addition, the larger safety community needs national data about pedestrian use of the transportation network.

10. The most complete set of pedestrian crash data available for safety analysis and research is more than two decades old, collected at a time when vehicle designs were substantially different from those of current models.

11. A state data system linking state police crash reports to hospital intake and emergency room medical records would facilitate the development of targeted countermeasures to reduce pedestrian crashes and the injury severity of those crashes.

12. To facilitate the aggregation of state data into a national picture of pedestrian fatalities and injuries, a common data structure needs to be used by the many jurisdictions compiling the data.

Revised Standards

The report also recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 to include performance-based standards for vehicle headlight systems correctly aimed on the road and tested on-vehicle to account for headlight height and lighting performance. It also recommends revising Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 to allow adaptive headlight systems.

The report also recommends that the NHTSA incorporate pedestrian safety systems, including pedestrian collision avoidance systems and other more-passive safety systems, into the New Car Assessment Program. It calls on the agency to develop a detailed pedestrian crash data set that represents the current, complete range of crash types and that can be used for local and state analysis and to model and simulate pedestrian collision avoidance systems.