Knowledge of the amount of violence tolerated by the human body is essential when developing and implementing pedestrian safety strategies. When estimating the potential benefits of new countermeasures, the pedestrian fatality risk as a function of impact speed is of particular importance. Although this function has been analysed previously, we state that a proper understanding does not exist. Based on the largest in-depth, pedestrian accident study undertaken to date, we derive an improved risk function for adult pedestrians hit by the front of passenger cars. Our results show far lower fatality risks than generally reported in the traffic safety literature. This discrepancy is primarily explained by sample bias towards severe injury accidents in earlier studies. Nevertheless, a strong dependence on impact speed is found, with the fatality risk at 50 km/h being more than twice as high as the risk at 40 km/h and more than five times higher than the risk at 30 km/h. Our findings should have important implications for the development of pedestrian accident countermeasures worldwide. In particular, the scope of future pedestrian safety policies and research should be broadened to include accidents with impact speeds exceeding 50 km/h.