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LEGAL INTELLIGENCER: City Driving: Making Vehicles Safe for Pedestrians

By: Larry E. Coben, Anapol Weiss Shareholder

Shareholder Larry Coben Featured in The Legal IntelligencerShareholder Larry Coben Featured in The Legal Intelligencer

Published: The Legal Intelligencer


Most pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries occur when people are struck by the front of a vehicle. The numbers have gone up – in 2010, 4,302 pedestrians were killed, and in 2019 that number rose to 6,272. Pedestrian injuries have likewise gone up from 70,000 in 2010 to 76,000 in 2019.

This crisis on our roadways is solvable. The answer has been available to vehicle manufacturers for more than a decade. Yet, until now, the importance of solving this nationwide crisis hasn’t been a high priority for manufacturers. Instead, in a hodge-podge manner, some manufacturers of over-the-road trucks and passenger vehicles have offered mechanical-electronic systems that provide—in a limited fashion—forward collision warnings (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) that may or may not reduce the risk of running-down a pedestrian. The absence of collision avoidance systems (CAS)—for trucks and passenger vehicles sold after 2012 and the inadequacy of the performance of many of the systems installed over the past 10 years dictates pursuit of product design defect cases when the result is a fatality or catastrophic injury.

While CAS is becoming a standard feature on most passenger vehicles sold in the United States—and the NHTSA has announced that it must be standard on all passenger vehicles by model year 2029—what remains problematic is its “unpredictable” or limited effectiveness. For example, the IIHS has reported that most of the popular small SUVs tested this year either failed or performed poorly to its performance requirements in low-speed tests—25 to 35 mph. In this context, the NHTSA has just issued regulations that will go into effect for 2029 passenger vehicles setting out performance requirements for CAS.

The need for well-designed CAS has been obvious for decades. The failure to make CAS standard on all vehicles is a huge mistake that the vehicle industry must answer for in courtrooms around the country. Likewise, the decision to release poorly programmed collision avoidance systems that really don’t provide the safety benefits they should delays Americans receiving the rewards of a well-designed systems and requires jurors to place blame on these corporate entities.

Click here to read the entire article in The Legal Intelligencer.