Hundreds of people are killed and thousands are injured each year in crashes involving stopped or disabled vehicles that may not have stood out enough to alert drivers to the danger they pose, according to a new study commissioned by a company that makes enhanced hazard lighting systems.
Using federal crash statistics, transportation data analysis firm
"This study identifies a part of the road safety equation that doesn't get much attention, despite the size of the problem," says
The federal crash databases include codes denoting crashes that involve stopped or disabled vehicles. To estimate how many of those might have resulted because the stationary vehicle wasn't conspicuous enough, the authors analyzed detailed police reports from a subset of
They found that 95 percent of these inconspicuous-vehicle crashes occur when a vehicle traveling down the roadway collides with a stationary one. However, more than half the deaths and almost 1 in 5 serious injuries occur when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian who is leaving, working on, or returning to a stopped vehicle. On average, this type of crash kills 300 pedestrians a year, a number that has risen by more than a quarter since 2014.
That increase comes amid a steady rise in pedestrian fatalities, generally. Overall, 6,205 pedestrians were killed on
"These crashes illustrate the potential value of stopped-vehicle-ahead warnings, which are already provided by some navigation apps and could be integrated to work with advanced driver assistance features and more advanced driving automation," Zuby says. "They're also a reminder of why we put so much emphasis on good headlights as a vital crash avoidance technology."
Crashes like these could potentially be eliminated with vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which enables vehicles to wirelessly exchange information about their speed, location, and heading. But long before that technology becomes commonplace, several simpler countermeasures could help, the report suggests.
Earlier research indicates that improving hazard lights so they flash brighter and more frequently and are triggered automatically in the event a vehicle is disabled could reduce crashes. Nearly a third of the collisions in that study involved a stationary vehicle that had its hazards on. Emergency Safety Solutions, which commissioned the
Adjustments to the "move over" laws that require drivers to change lanes to give police and emergency services vehicles more room to operate could also help,
Better traffic management practices could also make a difference. Under one such policy, first responders dispatch two vehicles to every highway incident and use one vehicle primarily to shield the personnel working on the disabled vehicle from oncoming traffic, increasing the visibility of the scene with flares, safety cones and flashing lights.
However, more research is needed there, as well. The most recent