Pedestrians face challenges in a myriad of situations. From crossing streets in designated crosswalks to walking through a parking lot from a vehicle into a store or other building, they must navigate drivers who may not pay attention to their presence.

Over the last several years, more new vehicles have included features designed to prevent pedestrian accidents. Unfortunately, it does not appear that these features always work.

Washington State’s rising pedestrian fatalities

According to records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 59 pedestrians were killed across the state in 2009. These fatalities represented 12% of the state’s total vehicular deaths that year. In 2014, pedestrian deaths increased to 75, representing 16% of the state’s auto fatalities. By 2018, the situation worsened yet again. That year, 102 pedestrians lost their lives in automobile crashes. Those deaths accounted for 19% of all vehicular fatalities in the state.

Vehicle technology fails to keep pedestrians safe

A study conducted by AAA found pedestrian detection systems and automatic braking systems to be insufficient in their abilities to prevent pedestrian accidents. Given that most pedestrian fatalities occur after sunset and before sunrise, some tests occurred in dark conditions. The results were so poor that AAA declared the technologies to be completely ineffective.

In daylight conditions with no other visibility limitations such as fog or cloud cover, one set of tests included adult pedestrian dummies crossing in front of vehicles traveling at 30 miles per hour. The test vehicles hit the pedestrian dummies in six out of 10 test scenarios. Test scenarios involving child-sized pedestrian dummies returned even poorer results.