Causation mechanisms in car-to-vulnerable road user crashes: Implications for active safety systems
Journal article, 2012
Vulnerable road users (VRUs), such as pedestrians and bicyclists, are often involved in crashes with passenger cars. One way to prevent these crashes is to deploy active safety systems that support the car drivers and/or VRUs. However, to develop such systems, a thorough understanding of crash causation mechanisms is required. The aim of this study is to identify crash causation mechanisms from the perspective of the VRUs, and to explore the implications of these mechanisms for the development of active safety systems. Data originate from the European project SafetyNet, where 995 crashes were in-depth investigated using the SafetyNet Accident Causation System (SNACS). To limit the scope, this study analyzed only intersection crashes involving VRUs. A total of 56 VRU crashes were aggregated. Results suggest that, while 30% of the VRUs did not see the conflict car due to visual obstructions in the traffic environment, 70% of the VRUs saw the car before the collision, but still misunderstood the traffic situation and/or made an inadequate plan of action. An important implication that follows from this is that, while detection of cars is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, it is even more important to help the VRUs to correctly understand traffic situation (e.g., does the driver intend to slow down, and if s/he does, is it to let the VRU cross or for some other reason?). The former issue suggests a role for various cooperative active safety systems, as the obstacles are generally impenetrable with regular sensors. The latter issue is less straightforward. While various systems can be proposed, such as providing gap size estimation and reducing the car speed variability, the functional merits of each such a system need to be further investigated.
Active safety system
Vulnerable road user