Identifying the characteristics of pedestrians involved in a crash

Science topics April 2015 Road safetyHuman behaviour

Jean-Louis Martin, Researcher in epidemiology - TS2 Department, UMRESTTE

Between 2000 and 2010 pedestrians accounted for about 27% of those killed in road traffic accidents in the European Union1.
In France, 489 pedestrians were fatally injured in 20122, amounting 13.4% of all road fatalities. Based on an accurate description of the injuries they sustained and an internationally validated injury severity coding system, it is estimated that 25,000 pedestrians were injured in that year, 4,000 of them seriously.
Pedestrians are therefore the fourth most crash-involved group of road users after motorists, the riders of powered two-wheelers and cyclists. There has been a downward trend in the number of crash-involved pedestrians in the last ten years or so3.
This change occurs at a time when there has been a slight increase in the number of powered two-wheelers and a spectacular reduction in the number of crash-involved motorists.

Identifying the characteristics of pedestrians involved in a crash - Ifsttar - Young pedestrians crossing a street

Who are the pedestrian casualties?

As is the case with the other categories of road users, most crash-involved pedestrians are young. For both males and females most crash-involved pedestrians are in the 10-19 year old age group. Nevertheless, the over-70s are over-represented in relation to their number in the population. More than 50% of the crash-involved pedestrians in this age group are over 85 years of age.
As with all groups of road users, pedestrian injury severity increases with age, particularly after 64 years of age, both in terms of lethality and injury severity.


The location of injuries varies with pedestrian profiles

Seventy-three percent of pedestrian casualties who have sustained at least one non-minor injury have a fracture. The most common body regions for these are, in order, the lower limbs, the head/face/neck and the upper limbs. More specifically, the most frequently injured parts of the lower limbs are the legs and knees as these are directly impacted by the striking vehicle.
On average, men are more severely injured than women. They sustain fractures less frequently than women, but their internal organs are significantly more often injured. They also receive more impacts to the head, thorax and legs.
However, women sustain more injuries to their upper limbs, knees and, above all, pelvis, for which the risk is twice that for men.
The majority of fatal injuries, and a major proportion of severe injuries, are to the head and thorax. This is the case for all age groups.

Appropriate countermeasures?

Consumerist tests, like the EuroNcap tests, encourage manufacturers to improve their vehicles in order to reduce injury severity in the case of an impact with a pedestrian. The findings of such tests, which currently focus on head, lower limb and hip injuries, are consistent with the studies conducted at IFSTTAR. They could nevertheless be improved by the addition of a specific test for thoracic injury as the thorax is, after the head, the body region with the highest risk of severe, or even fatal, injuries.


1 WHO. WHO Global Safety, Decade for Action: Word health Organisation; 2013.
2 ONISR. La sécurité routière en France, Bilan de l'année 2012: La documentation française; 2013.
3 Martin JL, Lardy A, Laumon B. Pedestrian Injury Patterns According to Car and Casualty Characteristics in France. 55th Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine (AAAM) Annual Conference; 2011 October 3-5, 2011; 2011.