Watch Now

AARP pushes feds to protect older pedestrians from truck accidents

Lobbying group asks regulators to speed data collection on braking technology aimed at ‘vulnerable road users’

Trucks may be more likely to encounter pedestrians in urban areas. (Photo: Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — The country’s largest advocacy group for people over 50 wants federal regulators to do more to protect pedestrians from getting hit by trucks.

AARP — formerly the American Association of Retired Persons — is pushing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require pedestrian automatic emergency braking (PAEB) in heavy-duty trucks.

Like AEB, PAEB relies on forward-looking detection sensors to assist drivers by automatically applying brakes. But instead of being calibrated to avoid or mitigate vehicle-to-vehicle collisions, PAEB is designed to do the same for contact between vehicles and pedestrians.

“While we encourage FMCSA and NHTSA to finalize [federal standards] regarding AEB in heavy vehicles as quickly as possible, we urge the agencies to also establish an expedited plan to gather performance data about PAEB in large trucks,” wrote David Certner, AARP legislative counsel and legislative policy director.

“This technology is rapidly improving and has the potential to significantly reduce harm to vulnerable road users by reducing the frequency of crashes involving large trucks. We hope that it can become standard equipment on both light and heavy vehicles as soon as possible.”

Certner’s request was included in comments AARP filed with NHTSA and FMCSA in response to the agencies’ joint notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to require AEB in trucks over 10,000 pounds, and to require truck drivers to activate and maintain them. The comment deadline for the proposal is Sept. 5.

Weeks before the joint rulemaking for AEB in heavy trucks, NHTSA issued a similar proposed rulemaking for AEB requirements in cars and light trucks — which also includes requirements for PAEB systems.

For heavy trucks, however, “there are unknowns at this time about the performance of PAEB on heavy vehicles in the U.S., as well as cost and other technical and practicability considerations to support a proposed implementation of PAEB for heavy vehicles,” NHTSA pointed out in the heavy truck proposal. “Rather than delay this NPRM to obtain this information, we have decided to proceed with the rulemaking as set forth in this NPRM.”

Certner acknowledged NHTSA’s reasoning while also emphasizing that deaths of older pedestrians are disproportionate to their share of the population. He cited NHTSA statistics that show adults 65 and older were 16.8% of the population in 2021 but 19% of all pedestrian fatalities.

Certner and AARP also advocated on behalf of advancing racial equity, referencing evidence that people of color are disproportionately represented among those killed while walking compared to white Americans.

“For example, a recent study found that the death rate among Black pedestrians was 118% higher than among white pedestrians. These statistics demonstrate the urgency of improving safety for everyone who uses our roadways.”

Along with testing aimed at preventing pedestrian accidents, AARP recommended to NHTSA and FMCSA that PAEB be tested in heavy vehicles for bicyclists, motorcyclists, and those using walkers, scooters or wheelchairs. “In addition, testing should be done in a variety of lighting conditions, at both low and high speeds, and with dummies with a range of skin tones and heights,” the group recommended.

Beth Burks, executive director for the Humboldt County (California) Association of Governments, agreed with requiring AEB technology with broader protections.

“NHTSA and FMCSA need to hold automakers to the highest possible standards of AEB,” Burks wrote in comments filed on the heavy truck proposal.

“The technology deployed should be able to detect everyone on the road outside of a vehicle, including children, people with dark skin tones, people with small frames, and people using bikes and mobility devices, during daylight and nighttime.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

F3: Future of Freight Festival


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.


  1. Stephen Webster

    A better solution would be to provide other options of transportation for these older or disabled people. Homeless tend to live on the street and will cause problems for for braking systems like this as I often see them living near overpasses or at intersections

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.