How can pedestrian safety be improved?

Science topics April 2015 Road safetyHuman behaviour

Pierre-Jean Arnoux, Senior Researcher and Assistant Director of the LBA - Department TS2

Although recent years have seen a considerable drop in the number of casualties on roads, in proportional terms pedestrians are still at particularly high risk1, both in developed and emerging countries. IFSTTAR’s efforts to improve the safety of so-called “vulnerable users” involves several scientific disciplines and analysis at various scale levels.


Prior to the accident, analysing the behaviour of the user in the environment

This analysis suggests ways of improving the organisation of transport systems, both with regard to highway design and street furniture. Considerable study is devoted to elderly persons, whose perceptive, cognitive and motor capacities may be impaired. The use of simulators allows investigating the influence of these impairments and may have the potential to become a tool for relearning. This approach relates both to pedestrians, in order to improve their ability to move around within the urban space, and drivers for whom the attentional ability to detect pedestrians in time and perform an appropriate manoeuvre in time is essential.


A large number of issues

An analysis of the accident scenario is essential in order to develop active safety devices with the potential of avoiding the accident or warning the driver while at the same time allowing for the reactions of the pedestrian.
Studying the physical vulnerability of the pedestrian by gaining an understanding of the mechanisms responsible for injury is also a concern. This makes it possible to influence vehicle design by proposing appraisal standards. An approach combining experimental tests with numerical simulations permits broadly based, realistic investigations taking account of a large number of parameters that apply to the vehicle (shape, location of impact point, speed) and the pedestrian (size, position, posture). The value of developing both active and passive countermeasures for cars is therefore obvious. The concept of integrated solutions, which combine active systems and passive safety, is one that opens up considerable opportunities for IFSTTAR.


Post-accident analysis and clinical care of casualties

This stage is essential in order to provide input for our research topics. Statistical analysis of trauma (including the follow up of casualties and monitoring their rehabilitation) or alternatively the detailed analysis of accidents gives valuable data for identifying risk factors or the conditions under which the accident occurred. We have thus been able to show that risk exposure is higher for men than for women1. The youngest individuals and the elderly are undeniably groups with a high risk, with different injury typologies.


IFSTTAR conducts wide-ranging research, in some cases in the framework of national and international collaboration, in order to understand the vulnerability of pedestrians and improve their safety. All in all, IFSTTAR is able to deploy its research capabilities in a very large number of areas. The institute can thus propose solutions for prevention and training, improving infrastructure and, lastly, the physical protection of this group of road users.



1 Martin J.-L.,  Lardy A.,  Laumon B., Pedestrian Injury Patterns According to Car and Casualty Characteristics in France, Ann Adv Automot Med. 2011 October; 55: 137–146.

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