Last week NHTSA released some unsettling information: U.S. traffic deaths rose nearly 8% over 2014, with the largest number of people killed on U.S. roads since 2008. Alarmingly, this rise in traffic deaths is more than double the rise in U.S. vehicle-distance traveled in 2015 versus 2014. The report says deaths among vulnerable traffic participants—bicyclists , pedestrians, and motorcyclists—rose more 10%. And it’s not isolated to the States, either; the increasing traffic death trend is the same in other countries like France and Germany, where the number of seriously injured people also is higher.
So after years and years of improving safety, the number are moving in the wrong direction. How is—and could be, and should be—lighting involved?
I think three lighting innovations have improved safety markedly:
- Daytime running lights
- High-performance headlamps that put a lot more light flux on the road: first HID and now LED. TÜV Rheinland research in 2007 found that HID headlamps prevent crashes and save lives, stating that if all German-registered vehicles had HID headlamps the number of crashes could be reduced by more than 50% on country roads, and up to 30% on motorways.
- Adaptive driving beam, which is coming soon in greater volume.
Most of the dead were vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. ADB could improve safety by night for these vulnerable people, just by dint of giving drivers’ much more light width and kerb-to-kerb coverage in all driving conditions. Two things are fervently to be hoped for and worked toward: ADB for all new vehicles, not just high-end premium models, and approval of ADB in the US and Canada.
But there’s a new category of traffic fatalities we’ll want to pay close attention to, too: the world’s first death of a private motorist (mis)using his fancy new car’s self-driving capability is much in the news. This week we’ve got discussion and analysis of that crash and its implications for driver assistance and autonomous vehicles at large.
DVN Editor in Chief