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The rate of pedestrian deaths has risen to troublingly numbers over the past decade. The worst year yet was 2018; over 6,000 pedestrians were killed, making pedestrian death account for 16% of traffic fatalities. In most cases, they were hit by larger vehicles, like trucks and SUVs. Distracted driving was also a big issue.

While automakers can’t make drivers pay attention to their surroundings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety ratings of cars can be improved. The most important factor is the automatic emergency brake system, which can sense pedestrians and make drivers stop on short notice. Here are the results of the newest IIHS safety tests on autobrakes.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s three tests

The IIHS uses crash test dummies to replicate three common pedestrian-crossing scenarios. The first is an adult crossing the path of an approaching vehicle from the right side of the road. Second, the vehicles are tested on the ability to stop for a pedestrian walking in the car’s travel lane. The most challenging scenario concerns a child unexpectedly crossing the road from behind two parked cars.

The tested cars could earn a rating of either basic, advanced, or superior. In the case of the perpendicular adult and child scenarios, the car is going either 12 or 25 miles per hour. In the parallel adult scenario, the car is going 25 or 37 miles per hour. In almost every test, it would only take one second for the car to hit the dummy. With the 37 miles-per-hour test, a two-second warning is given.

Cars with average pedestrian-safety performances

The IIHS used 11 small SUVs for the crash tests. Only one car received a basic rating: the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander. Even though the vehicle performed well in collisions with other cars, it couldn’t avoid hitting the dummies in any tests.

It did manage to reduce its speed by 19 miles per hour in the 25 miles per hour test and 11 miles per hour in the child scenario. The BMW X1 didn’t even receive a score due to its poor braking power.

Cars with good pedestrian-safety performance

The Chevy Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, and Hyundai Kona all received an advanced rating. These cars still hit the dummies, but their speed could be drastically reduced. We should note that these models can be purchased with a pedestrian detection upgrade; only the Nissan Rogue offers it as a standard feature.

While the ultimate goal of the tests is to ensure that a car can come to a complete stop, a car hitting a pedestrian at a lower speed will cause less harm. Pedestrian detection is one of the latest add-ons to the growing list of car safety features. This system uses a radar sensor and a camera to detect animals or people, even when they’re out of the driver’s field of vision. 

Cars with the best performance

The Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Volvo XC40, and Subaru Forester received superior ratings in the crash tests. Other than the CR-V, pedestrian detection is standard on all of these vehicles.

The XC40 could not stop in time during the 37-miles-per-hour adult test or the 25-miles-per-hour child test, but it performed well in every other scenario. The RAV4 and Forester performed exceptionally well, managing to avoid the dummies in every scenario where the pedestrian would be crossing the street.