According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians accounted for approximately 5.8% of all vehicular fatalities in West Virginia in 2009. Five years later in 2014, foot traffic represented 6.5% of all accident deaths statewide.

Since then, West Virginia has continued to struggle to find ways to keep pedestrians safe.

The ongoing challenge of pedestrian safety

Across West Virginia, 2015 and 2016 saw the percent of pedestrians relative to overall traffic fatalities grow, reaching almost 9% in 2016. That declined slightly to 8.6% in 2017 and then 7.5% in 2018.

At the same time, new vehicle technologies aimed at keeping pedestrians safe continued to evolve. Those technologies, however, seem to fail more often than they succeed.

AAA study highlights issues with pedestrian safety features

AAA tested vehicles equipped with systems to detect pedestrians and then stop the vehicles prior to hitting the pedestrians. Adult- and child-sized dummies were used in the study. Tests run in dark conditions returned such poor results that AAA declared the safety systems completely ineffective. Making matters worse is the fact that the majority of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.

In daylight conditions, the best test case found adult pedestrian dummies hit six out of 10 times. In these scenarios, test vehicles drove at 30 miles per hour while the dummies walked directly in front of the vehicles. Tests with child-sized pedestrian dummies, including the pedestrian dummies darting out from parked cars, returned even more dismal results.

These safety features in vehicles rely on a range of emerging technologies, including lasers, sensors and software.