As the summer season officially draws to a close, the shortening days bring not only cooler temperatures but more dim or dark hours in which pedestrians see their risk of being hit by vehicles increase.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the vast majority of pedestrian fatalities occur in dark conditions. While some new vehicle technologies aim to prevent pedestrian accidents, they may currently have little to no ability to do so at night.
Nighttime risks for pedestrians
The National Safety Council explains that standard low-beam headlights provide a driver with 250 feet of visibility. High-beam lights double that to 500 feet. A driver’s reaction time naturally reduces with limited visibility due to poor or dark lighting. When adding factors like potential impairment, fatigue or age to the mix, the chance of a driver hitting a pedestrian may become even greater.
Advanced technologies ineffective at night
AAA conducted a detailed study to evaluate the effectiveness of pedestrian detection systems and automatic braking systems at preventing pedestrian accidents or mitigating the impact of such accidents. Multiple scenarios were tested, including tests at night with no ambient street lighting and only minimal moonlight. With test vehicles driving at 25 miles per hour and lights on low-beam settings, not even one vehicle’s detection system identified an adult pedestrian dummy walking in front of the vehicle. Similarly, not even one vehicle’s automatic braking system engaged, resulting in pedestrian impacts in all test cases.
The result of these tests led AAA to declare the advanced safety technologies aimed at helping pedestrians to be completely ineffective in nighttime conditions.