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NHTSA wants to make cars safer for pedestrians

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed that cars add automatic emergency braking for pedestrians and to provide consumers information for how dangerous cars are for pedestrians in a crash.

As cars have gotten safer for the people inside them, they have grown more dangerous for everyone outside. A decade of empirical data on traffic deaths can attest to that. So any effort now to reign in deadly car design in is well overdue.

Advocacy organization America Walks has a few concerns about the consumer information proposal, though. Even if it’s well-intentioned, it may risk being ineffective:

Under the current proposal, a vehicle could receive a failing grade for pedestrian crashworthiness, but still earn a five-star safety rating. This is unacceptable and misrepresents a vehicle as safe when it is not. In addition, the proposal fails to evaluate limited driver visibility, a known safety flaw for larger vehicles, and won’t display pedestrian crashworthiness ratings at the point of sale, where most consumers would see them.

As an aside, a year ago I purchased a new car with all of the modern bells and whistles. For example, it will flash a bright red light at the driver’s face if it detects that you’re approaching another car too quickly and need to brake. It also can detect pedestrians in front of it, but how does it communicate that to the driver? By displaying a tiny “person walking” symbol on the dashboard, next to the check-engine light and all of the other little icons that people ignore. If I somehow didn’t see an actual person in front of me, I can’t imagine how I would notice that icon instead.

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