Despite advancements in vehicle safety technology, pedestrian fatalities continue to rise, highlighting a concerning disparity in the focus of car safety ratings. While these ratings prioritize occupant protection, they often overlook the safety of pedestrians, who are among the most vulnerable road users.

Disparity in Safety Priorities

Car safety ratings are primarily based on tests conducted in controlled environments, emphasizing crashworthiness and occupant protection. However, these tests do not adequately assess a vehicle's impact on pedestrians in real-world scenarios.

This disparity stems from a historical focus on occupant safety. As vehicles became more sophisticated, seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones were introduced to minimize occupant injuries and fatalities. However, these advancements have come at a cost, compromising the safety of pedestrians who are often the victims of vehicle collisions.

Consequences of the Disconnect

The disconnect between car safety ratings and pedestrian safety has dire consequences. Pedestrians, particularly the elderly and children, are disproportionately affected by pedestrian-vehicle collisions. In the United States alone, over 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2020, accounting for nearly 15% of all traffic-related fatalities.

Moreover, the lack of emphasis on pedestrian safety in car ratings perpetuates a false sense of security among drivers. High safety ratings may lead them to believe that their vehicles are safe for all road users, regardless of their actions.

Need for Comprehensive Safety Ratings

Experts argue that car safety ratings should be expanded to include pedestrian safety assessments. This would provide consumers with a more holistic view of a vehicle's safety performance and encourage manufacturers to prioritize pedestrian protection.

Comprehensive ratings could evaluate factors such as:

  • Exterior design: Assessing the shape and rigidity of a vehicle's front bumper, hood, and fenders to minimize pedestrian injuries.
  • Automatic emergency braking systems: Evaluating the effectiveness of these systems in detecting and avoiding pedestrians, especially at intersections.
  • Visibility: Assessing the driver's field of view and the effectiveness of headlights and side mirrors in improving pedestrian visibility.

Policy Recommendations

To address this disparity, policymakers are calling for:

  • Mandating pedestrian safety assessments: Requiring manufacturers to conduct comprehensive pedestrian safety assessments and incorporate the results into car safety ratings.
  • Promoting pedestrian-friendly infrastructure: Investing in pedestrian walkways, crosswalks, and traffic calming measures to create safer environments for pedestrians.
  • Increasing driver awareness: Educating drivers about pedestrian safety through campaigns and driver education programs.


The disconnect between car safety ratings and pedestrian safety is a matter of life and death. By expanding safety ratings to include pedestrian assessments, policymakers and manufacturers can incentivize the development of vehicles that protect all road users.

It is imperative that we prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable among us. By addressing the shortcomings in car safety ratings, we can create a transportation system that is equitable and protects all who use it.

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