Making sure headlights are aimed where they should be aimed and incorporating collision avoidance technology are two ways to improve pedestrian safety in the U.S., according to a new report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The steady increase in pedestrian fatalities caused by vehicle crashes – which have risen every year since 2009 – caused the NTSB to issue a Pedestrian Safety Special Investigation Report based on its investigations into 15 highway crashes between April 24 and Nov. 3, 2016 in which vehicles struck and killed pedestrians. Some 5,987 pedestrians were killed in 2016 because of vehicle crashes.

The report addresses vehicle-based changes, infrastructure improvements and data needs for improving pedestrian safety. It also considers improvements to vehicle lighting systems and other vehicle safety systems that can improve pedestrian safety.

A universal issue

“Pedestrian safety is a universal issue – we are all pedestrians,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Pedestrian safety requires a multi-faceted approach of engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation so all road users are provided safe facilities and use them as intended. The time is right for advancing improvements in pedestrian safety and the NTSB is proud to provide our expertise in the national effort to address this safety issue.”

Specific ways to improve safety

Included in the report are safety recommendations directed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

1. Revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 to include performance-based standards for vehicle headlight systems correctly aimed on the road and tested on-vehicle to account for headlight height and lighting performance.

2. Revise Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 to allow adaptive headlight systems.

3. Develop performance test criteria for vehicle designs that reduce injuries to pedestrians.

4. Develop performance test criteria for manufacturers to use in evaluating the extent to which automated pedestrian safety systems in light vehicles will prevent or mitigate pedestrian injury.

5. Incorporate pedestrian safety systems, including pedestrian collision avoidance systems and other more-passive safety systems, into the New Car Assessment Program.

6. Develop a detailed pedestrian crash data set that represents the current, complete range of crash types and that can be used for local and state analysis and to model and simulate pedestrian collision avoidance systems.

7. Work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and implement a plan for the states to combine highway crash data and injury health data, with the goal of producing a national database of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

8. Examine the past framework of the Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System and establish methods that states and metropolitan planning organizations can use to collect pedestrian event data, then define a common framework that will allow those data sources to be combined.

The abstract of the report is available online at and the supplemental data for the report is available in the public docket for the report is available at

The report will publish on the NTSB’s website in a few weeks.