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Are large vehicles a problem for children?

Vehículos demasiado altos, ¿son un problema para los niños?

30/09/2020

SUVs, 4x4, buses... are large vehicles a safety problem for children? On the one hand, we must take into account that the chances of being run over can increase when we are talking about very large vehicles. Children, because of their height, may not be seen by drivers, especially when walking behind them. We also have to consider the consequences of an accident which are more serious due to the size, height and weight of the vehicle. It should be noted, however, that the technology that these vehicles may be equipped with attempts to minimize these risks, thus reducing as much as possible the consequences of running over a pedestrian.

Large vehicles have become fashionable, especially those known as SUVs. These vehicles descend from 4-wheel drives and share part of their design. They are bigger than a car or a utility vehicle, although we can say that today they are a hybrid between a utility vehicle and a 4x4. In fact, many are not four-wheel drive vehicles. Drivers increasingly choose this type of vehicle. We also need to consider all the buses and trucks that run in cities to a greater or lesser extent. In any case, they are vehicles that can pose a risk to pedestrians, especially young children, who are more vulnerable and less visible. 

As far as their safety as passengers is concerned, this type of vehicle is equipped with the same safety and technology as other cars. It is obviously important that children always travel with an approved child restraint system adapted to their height and weight. It must always be correctly installed and children properly fastened. 

According to a study by Detroit Free Press and USA Today, the rise of SUVs is resulting in an increase in fatalities in the United States. Specifically, they point out that an SUV is two to three times more likely to kill a pedestrian in the event of a collision than a conventional car. The increase in these large vehicles is greater in the United States than in Europe, so the rates can vary considerably. They indicate that fatalities have increased by 46% between 2009 and 2016. During this period, the number of fatalities involving an SUV has increased by 81%, according to the same study.

SUVs are larger and heavier, and have a much higher and more vertical front. In direct impacts the pedestrian is run over without the possibility of cushioning on the bonnet. 

However, let´s not just focus on SUVs. Due to their size, all big vehicles can be a risk to pedestrians, especially young pedestrians. The larger a vehicle is, the more blind spots, i.e. areas where the driver cannot see.  In fact, one of the biggest risks that children face when traveling on a school bus is actually being run over. The Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) in Spain points out that  90% of accidents that occur during school transport take place when getting on or off the vehicle or around this time. In many cases, a person is run over due to a distraction of the child, the school bus driver or the parents.

TECHNOLOGY THAT HELPS TO AVOID RUN-OVER ACCIDENTS AND REDUCE THEIR CONSEQUENCES

Aware of the risks and vulnerability of pedestrians, manufacturers develop and implement systems in their vehicles that help to avoid run-over accidents and minimize their consequences. 

What technology has been implemented?

-Active bonnet: when the sensors detect a collision, the rear end of the bonnet is raised to better absorb the impact against the pedestrian.

-Autonomous emergency braking system (AEB): the vehicle warns or stops if it detects a pedestrian or cyclist in its path. This technology has also been developed for vehicles when reversing. 

-Front and rear cameras to detect whether there are pedestrians crossing in front or behind the vehicle These are very useful when talking about children and especially on very large vehicles such as buses or trucks.

-Sound for electric or hybrid vehicles. These cars make very little noise, so pedestrians don't hear them and could make the mistake of crossing without looking as they think there are no vehicles nearby. These cars have sound alerts and their own sounds so they can be heard by all road users.

-Blind spot monitor. There are cameras located in the exterior rear-view mirrors or radar modules in the bumpers that monitor whether there is a vehicle in the area the driver cannot see. The system warns the driver that there is a vehicle located in this area, with light signals on the rear view mirror itself. In the city, it can even alert us to the presence of cyclists or pedestrians.

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