How much should motorists be prepared to pay to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths in car accidents?
The answer is $91.
Spending any more cannot be justified, according to a Monash University Accident Research Centre study on the impact of new car models on pedestrian injuries.
The research, sponsored by government authorities and motoring groups, including the Road Safety Council of WA and the RAC, involved an analysis of more than 63,000 injured pedestrians in Australia.
It calculated that recent safety advances had saved 340 pedestrians from death or serious injury since 2003 and, at the same rate, would save another 170 pedestrians by 2020.
This represented a social cost saving of $369 million.
But the study found that new technologies designed specifically to save the lives of pedestrians, including windscreen airbags and pop-up bonnets, were unjustifiably expensive.
And "technology that prevented only 10 per cent of pedestrian injury - more realistic of typical technology effectiveness - would only justify an additional $91 per vehicle".
Reported in The Age newspaper, study co-author Stuart Newstead said the cost of new technologies could not be justified in most cars.
"The issue here is about smart investment," Professor Newstead said.
He said car manufacturers Mercedes and Volvo were beginning to invest in new pedestrian safety features, but they had not been fully tested.
These included pedestrian airbags that were designed to protect the head from smashing into the windscreen, a common cause of death or injury.
RAC general manager, corporate affairs, Will Golsby said it was of concern that almost half WA's metropolitan fatalities last year were either pedestrians or motorcyclists.
"The uptake of safer vehicles and key safety features is improving but more can be done to ensure crash protection and other safety features are a part of every new car design," he said.