Hybrids are Safer For Drivers, More Dangerous for Pedestrians

Nov 21, 2011
We talk a lot here about the benefits of adopting efficiency-boosting technology, but here’s a little reminder that there are two sides to every coin, courtesy of The Detroit News:

A new study has concluded that hybrid vehicle owners are 25 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than their conventional counterparts. However, this does not make these the safest vehicles on the road: hybrids are 20 percent more likely to be in a crash with a pedestrian because they can be harder to hear.

The Virginia-based Highway Loss Data Institute said the fact that hybrids are 10 percent heavier than traditionally powered vehicles is a big factor. Other factors, such as how, when and by whom hybrids are driven, also may contribute to the findings. Hybrid injury odds were 25-27 percent lower for collision claims.

But the study found that hybrids may be as much as 20 percent more likely to be in a crash with a pedestrian.

"When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can't hear them approaching," said Matt Moore, HLDI vice president and an author of the report, "so they might step out into the roadway without checking first to see what's coming."

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that electric and hybrid car manufacturers add noises that alert the blind and other pedestrians to the presence of these vehicles.

"For years customers wanted quieter cars, but now we face the challenge of keeping visually impaired pedestrians safe among quieter cars… now DOT is working to establish a sound standard to provide audible cues for pedestrians," said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

So if you’re adopting hybrid vehicles as a part of your fleet strategy, make sure you’re extra careful wherever people are around. Keeping your drivers and the people around them safe should be your top priority.

Photo courtesy of PEDS and re-used under the Creative Commons license.