Automobile safety is the study and practice of design, construction, equipment and regulation to minimize the occurrence and consequences of automobile accidents.
Road traffic safety more broadly includes roadway design.
One of the first formal academic studies into improving vehicle safety was by Cornell Aeronautical Labs of Buffalo, New York.
The main conclusion of their extensive report is the crucial importance of seat belts and padded dashboards.
However, the primary vector of traffic-related deaths and injuries is the disproportionate mass and velocity of an automobile compared to that of the predominant victim, the pedestrian.
In the United States a pedestrian is injured by an automobile every 8 minutes, and are 1.5 times more likely than a vehicle's occupants to be killed in an automobile crash per outing.
Improvements in roadway and automobile designs have steadily reduced injury and death rates in all first world countries.
Nevertheless, auto collisions are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, an estimated total of 1.2 million in 2004, or 25% of the total from all causes.
Of those killed by autos, nearly two-thirds are pedestrians.
Risk compensation theory has been used in arguments against safety devices, regulations and modifications of vehicles despite the efficacy of saving lives.