Although crashes with vulnerable road users account for a small proportion of all heavy truck accidents they cause particularly severe injuries. In Germany, collisions with bicyclists and pedestrians accounted for only 9% and 4%, respectively, of all injury crashes between a truck over 12,000 kg gross vehicle weight and another road user in 2015. However, vulnerable road users represented 26% of fatalities in these kinds of crashes. While collisions between trucks and bicyclists, particularly in right-turn situations, have recently gained attention in Europe, little research has been dedicated to crashes involving pedestrians. This study describes the circumstances and injury outcomes of severe crashes between heavy trucks and pedestrians in comparison to those involving bicyclists. The German Insurers Accident Database (UDB) provided data on accidents involving heavy trucks, defined as goods vehicles over 11,900 kg GVW: 39 crashes with 43 pedestrians, altogether, and 62 crashes with one bicyclist, each.
The majority of crashes occurred in built-up areas and during daylight, both for pedestrians and bicyclists. While most accidents involving pedestrians took place on a stretch of road (49%) the majority of accidents involving bicyclists occurred at junctions (77%). Females accounted for 58%, each, of the casualties among both groups of VRU’s. Pedestrians averaged 57.8 years of age (median: 61 yrs.), and were approximately six years older than bicyclists with an average of 51.6 years (median: 52.5 yrs.). The collision situations for pedestrians and for bicyclist differed considerably. The truck was going straight in the large majority of cases where a pedestrian was struck. Often, the truck was initially stationary and then moved off and collided with the person walking or standing near the vehicle. Crashes between a heavy truck and a bicyclist, on the other hand, were clearly dominated by turning manoeuvres, mostly when the truck made a right-turn at a junction and hit a bicyclist who was travelling alongside on the right of the truck and intending to go straight. 40% of pedestrians were run over, five of them with fatal consequences. Bicyclists were run over in 52% of cases, resulting in nine fatalities. Despite different collision scenarios among pedestrians and bicyclists in crashes with trucks, their injury patterns and severities were very similar. MAIS3+ cases accounted for approximately two thirds among all casualties in both groups. The highest proportion of AIS3+ injuries for pedestrians was found in the thorax region (31%) and for bicyclists in the lower extremities region (40%).
The present work confirms previous studies related to accidents between trucks and vulnerable road users that noted the prevalence of older persons among the VRU’s. It adds to the body of research by providing detail data on the different collision scenarios typical of truck accidents with pedestrians and with bicyclists and their injury patterns. Truck driver assistance systems hold a large potential to avoid or mitigate crashes with both VRU groups. While monitoring the right side of the vehicle is necessary to avoid crashes with bicyclists, pedestrian detection needs to focus on the area in front of the truck.