Compensating for Errors as Effectively as Possible

May 2019

Vehicle Technology

As DEKRA has pointed out many times in previous Road Safety Reports, human errors in traffic – including things like distraction – are a frequent cause of accidents. Regardless of whether one is only using the satnav briefly, adjusting the volume of the radio or the temperature of the air conditioning system, a few seconds are enough to travel several meters in blind flight even at a low speed. In such situations, features like automatic emergency brake assistance systems with cyclist and pedestrian detection have the potential to be of great benefit. The same applies to cases where children move carelessly in traffic and suddenly run into the street or endanger themselves by other mistakes.

Take Germany, for example: According to the German Federal Statistical Office, in 2017 the police registered a total of nearly 3,500 mistakes by pedestrians and approximately 6,700 wrong actions by cyclists aged 6 to 14 in road accidents involving personal injury (Figures 23 and 24). Most walking children made mistakes when crossing the road by ignoring the traffic or darting out suddenly from behind objects obstructing the view. The most common cause of accidents involving personal injury among 6- to 14-year-old cyclists was the incorrect use of the road. Next came errors in “making a turn, turning around, reversing, entering traffic, and riding off”, especially errors when entering flowing traffic or starting into traffic from the side of the road. This information is available in the publication “Traffic Accidents Involving Children 2017” by the German Federal Statistical Office.

Crash tests confirm the great potential benefits of assistance systems

With respect to the emergency brake assistance systems with pedestrian detection mentioned, enormous progress has been made in the field of sensor technology in recent years, producing ever faster and more reliable system reactions. While alert drivers require 0.8 to 1 second to detect a hazard, take the foot from the accelerator pedal, and step on the brake pedal, assistance systems control the braking within approximately 0.2 to 0.7 seconds depending on the situation. The sensors are often camera-based, and modern systems also have radar or lidar sensors to produce reliable results even in the dark and possibly even in adverse weather conditions.

At the beginning of 2019, the DEKRA Technology Center conducted numerous tests at the Lausitzring test site to demonstrate the effectiveness of such systems. The systems of three modern passenger cars were tested based on a current test standard of the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP). Here, a child dummy simulating the sequence of human movements “walked” onto the road from behind parked vehicles. The vehicles drove at defined speeds into the dummy that appeared suddenly. The test determined when and how the systems react and the speeds at which a collision can be prevented. The test candidates were the current models of the Ford Focus (model year 2018), the Volvo XC40 (model year 2017), and the Subaru Impreza (model year 2016). All systems detected the child and initiated emergency braking automatically. The driving speed of the vehicles was gradually increased until a collision occurred.

At a starting speed of 37 km/h, the Subaru Impreza was not able to reduce the speed completely, and it collided with the child dummy. But the collision speed was approximately 20 km/h, well below the starting speed. At a starting speed of 45 km/h, the Volvo XC40 only collided with the dummy in a very low speed range. Even at a starting speed of 50 km/h, the Ford Focus came to a stop in front of the dummy, thus preventing a collision. Tests were not carried out at even higher speeds, as the maximum speed limit of 50 km/h for built-up areas in Germany was reached.

If a person had braked instead of an automatic brake assist in the Ford, based on a normal reaction time of one second and subsequent emergency braking from a speed of 50 km/h, a collision would have occurred at around 32 km/h. Very serious injuries occur at such collision speeds. While the Volvo barely had a collision from a starting speed of 45 km/h thanks to the brake assist, with a human being at the wheel, the collision speed would have been around 30 km/h. Here again, the potential benefits are obvious. In the case of the Subaru, the collision speed coming from 37 km/h would still have been 25 km/h. In this case, the system achieves at least the effectiveness of an attentive driver.

The tests demonstrate the enormous potential of automated emergency brake assistance systems. In two cases, the systems were clearly superior to humans, and in one, at least equivalent. If a driver distraction situation is added to the equation, all three systems are life-saving, even with an additional warning for the driver. However, emergency braking systems – like all assistance systems – can only work within the physically prescribed limits. Also, they cannot detect all situations correctly, although technical progress keeps being made. So this does not relieve drivers from their obligations or even their responsibility for a safe and attentive driving style.

PS: The members of the “World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations” of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) agreed in February 2019 to make city automated emergency braking designed for city speeds of less than 60 km/h mandatory for new cars. In the EU and in Japan, the regulation is to apply from 2022 for all newly registered passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. The UNECE and the EU expect the mandatory automated emergency braking to reduce the number of accidents by up to 38 percent and to result in approximately 1,000 fewer traffic fatalities per year.

In several crash tests, DEKRA demonstrated the effectiveness of automated emergency brake assistance systems with pedestrian detection:

Children must be secured better in the vehicle

Parents who do not properly secure their children in the vehicle or hold them in their laps completely unsecured while riding are also acting recklessly and negligently. In many countries of the world, it is mandatory for vehicles to have safety equipment adapted to the size and weight of babies and children. With infant carriers, child seats, and booster seats, suitable products are offered for every age and build. Accident statistics speak clearly and the benefits of the systems are undisputed. Nevertheless, there are still parents who do not secure their children at all or do so incorrectly, and there are countries that still do not require seat belts – unfortunately, always with tragic consequences. For example, according to the Observatoire National Interministériel de la Sécurité Routière (French Interministerial Committee on Road Safety), almost 20 percent of children and adolescents killed in car accidents in France in 2017 were not wearing seat belts. In 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 17 percent of traffic victims in the US under the age of 15 were not wearing a seat belt.

A large study by the German Insurers Accident Research (UDV) in 2018 found that in more than 1,000 cases examined in Germany, only 52 percent of the babies and children were correctly secured. In the vast majority of cases, a child protection system was available, but the children were often not buckled in, were buckled in wrong, or the system had not been installed properly. On the one hand, some of the reasons for this were that many users found the safety systems too complicated to handle or had problems recognizing errors in handling. Especially systems with no ISOFIX were viewed negatively in this respect. On the other hand, deliberate failures to secure children properly were registered far too often. The correlations identified in the study coincide with statements from other studies and surveys: only a short distance, comfort of the child, fast and sloppy securing due to bad weather, and time pressure.

Many parents are unaware of the serious consequences of not securing their children properly. So basic physical laws are ignored and the life and health of their own offspring are jeopardized for their own convenience.

If the belt is not properly fastened, the child can hit the headliner in an emergency. Often the child is in danger of suffering serious injuries such as spinal cord compression. If the child is secured in the seat too loosely or if the seat is not the right size, under certain circumstances massive flections and hyperextension of the cervical spinal column may occur in the event of an impact. The nerve cords can be permanently damaged. If the head bumps against the front seat, a traumatic brain injury can occur in the worst case.

DEKRA conducted a crash test in 2019 to demonstrate the consequences of a collision at a normal speed of only 50 km/h in a built-up area. One child dummy was properly secured in a child seat, and a second child dummy sat in the back seat without wearing seat belts. Each dummy was made of six-year-old child with a height of 1.13 meters and a weight of 23 kilograms.

The pictures speak for themselves (see previous double page). While the properly secured child dummy is held back by the belt and also protected by the child seat, the unsecured dummy is thrown around in the vehicle. In a real accident, a child would have suffered severe to fatal injuries. In addition, the force of the impact against the back of the front seat and the risk of direct head-to-head contact also endanger the individuals sitting in front of the child.

Therefore, children must be properly secured in the vehicle for every trip, regardless of the distance, weather, and time pressure. But at the same time, vehicle manufacturers are also being encouraged to install ISOFIX anchor points as standard equipment on all back seats of cars – not just in countries where this is required. Manufacturers of child seats are required to word the operating instructions clearly and easy to understand and to make the handling logical and simple. In addition, the seat must be appropriate for the weight, height, and age of the child. It is best to let the child try out the seat before purchasing it.

Crashtest consequences of a collision without wearing seat belts:

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