Serious and fatal injuries from car accidents involving pedestrians will be dramatically reduced making walking and cycling safer as a result of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopting a new impact testing method for automakers.
Embracing the latest technological advancements, the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) adopted on 25 June an amendment to UN Regulation No. 127 (Pedestrian Safety) of the 1958 Agreement, which sets the standard test carmakers use to measure the level of damage a car could cause the human body upon impact. The new leg form test tool, known as FLEX-PLI, more accurately measures the level of injury a car’s bumper causes when it impacts a human leg. This level of harm can be the deciding factor between a serious or minor injury. So having the most accurate measure of damage allows for the design of more pedestrian friendly car bodies and the mitigation of injury.
The test is performed by launching a leg-form, an instrument that simulates a tibia, in "free flight" at the speed of 11 m/s (40 km/h) against the car bumper to reproduce real world condition of a pedestrian accident.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate pedestrian injuries or deaths, it is possible to make cars safer to the point where the most likely result is only minor injuries. This means that as the number of fatal and serious injuries decline, the number of minor injuries will increase, as accidents have less damaging results.
The German Federal Highway Research Institute estimated an annual decrease of 11 fatalities and 506 severely injured pedestrians as a result of this new testing method. In the same annual estimation, the number of slightly injured pedestrians would increase by 231. The annual cost reduction in Germany due to more pedestrian friendly vehicles designed was calculated at approximately $ 86.7 million.
The new FLEX-PLI test tool was researched and considered by the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee. The amendment, which will take effect in 2015, will potentially be applied in more than 50 countries worldwide including most of Europe, South Africa, Japan, etc.
The text of the amendment is available at: http://www.unece.org/DAM/trans/doc/2014/wp29/ECE-TRANS-WP29-2014-038e.pdf
Note to editors
UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee (ITC) has been promoting road safety with a 360 degree approach in which road safety management, safe infrastructure, vehicles, behaviour are solicited through the UN road safety conventions, as well as through capacity building and analytical activities. With regard to vehicle safety, the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) is the inter-governmental body, which administers three international Agreements (1997 Agreement: periodical technical inspections; 1958 Agreement: uniform technical prescriptions for vehicles and parts and conditions for reciprocal recognition of approvals and 1998 Agreement: global technical regulations). Through a growing number of vehicle regulations new vehicles have become safer and cleaner. On the other hand, there is a growing gap in vehicle safety between high and low income countries due to the old and poorly maintained vehicle fleet in these latter countries. Appropriate periodic vehicle inspections can play a crucial role in improving the quality, safety and environmental features of vehicles. For this however, the legal and institutional framework needs to be created and implemented. The UN Agreement on periodical vehicle inspection of 1997 offers the basic legal architecture with minimum, but essential requirements.
The 1958 Agreement and its annexed UN Regulations, contain provisions (for vehicles, their systems, parts and equipment) related to safety and environmental aspects. They include performance-oriented test requirements, as well as administrative procedures. They address issues such as type approval (of vehicle systems, parts and equipment); conformity of production (i.e. the means to prove the ability, for manufacturers, to produce a series of products that match the type approval specifications); and mutual recognition of the type approvals granted by Contracting Parties.
A comprehensive overview of WP.29 activities, beginning with a brief history from its inception as a regional forum through its transformation into a world forum, is available at: www.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/wp29wgs/wp29gen/wp29pub.html