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Complex and Conflicting Data Regarding Hybrid Pedestrian Accident Rates

June 04, 2011

Are hybrid cars too quiet? If they are too quiet, why is that really a problem? The answer is provided by a study conducted by NPR that concluded that pedestrians are twice as likely to get run over by hybrid vehicles verses other types of automobiles.

The results are attributed to the fact that when the cars are running on their electric motors they were so quiet that pedestrians cannot hear them coming.

These results have been slightly debunked by another study done by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) that studied more than 200,000 accidents involving traffic-related deaths. They point out that in the NPR study, the hybrids were moving at speeds in excess of 35 mph, which would in fact make them just as noisy as other cars. Another theory based on the NHTSA study is that these vehicles are driven by more people who live in city environments where there is more pedestrian traffic so this explained the higher rate of pedestrian accidents in the NPR study.

However, the NHTSA study also found that hybrid vehicles were two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian accident than other vehicles. The accidents involving bicyclists were much higher when the hybrid vehicle was moving at low speeds, or while turning, slowing, stopping, or entering or leaving a parking space.

Another study conducted in California and published in the Scientific American looked at the quiet operation of hybrids and its relationship to pedestrian accidents. They blindfolded subjects who listened to recordings of hybrid (HEV) vehicles approaching at 5 miles an hour. They also listened to recordings of internal combustion vehicles (ICE). The participants did not detect the hybrid vehicle until it was only 11 feet away. The test was not as realistic as it could be as there was also no other normal traffic noise included in the recordings.

There are some caveats to the study done by the NHTSA. The amount of data for the study was only gathered from 12 states overall. It is unclear based on study methodology to what degree results were impacted by a higher percentage of metro driving.

Here are the most significant findings of the NHTSA study:

  • Out of 8,387 hybrid accidents reported, 77 involved hitting pedestrians, which is almost double that of other vehicles.
  • When hybrids were traveling under 35 mph they hit walkers in 1.8% of the cases, while other vehicles hit pedestrians in only 1.2% of the crashes.
  • While making a turn, the hybrid pedestrian accident rate of 1.8% is nearly double the rate of 1.0% for other vehicles.
  • Cyclists were hit by hybrids 0.6% of the time verses 0.3% of the time for other vehicles.
  • Cyclists were hit by hybrids traveling under 35 mph 1.0% of the time versus 0.6% at higher speeds.
  • When a hybrid was traveling straight, it hit cyclists 0.6% of the time verses other vehicles at 0.3%
  • Little can be gained from the data gathered in bad weather conditions, parking lots, low light situations or in different road situations due to the lack of the sample size of the data.

Statistics in this case cannot be fully trusted to bring about a strong conclusion as to whether noisemakers should be adhered to hybrid vehicles to make pedestrians safer. If sample sizes of data are skewed or if there is a limited amount of data, the numbers cannot be trusted to produce reliable results. What we see here is some evidence that hybrids and pedestrians are coming into contact with one another and that in some instances the rates of the accidents involving the two can be a little higher than those involving ICE vehicles.

If you have been injured in a Georgia car accident, whether it is with a hybrid vehicle or another automobile, the accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates have the knowledge and experience you need. We have an experienced, qualified staff that is ready to fight for your rights. We want our clients to concentrate on the important things in life such as regaining their health, their family, and returning to their day-to-day life while our experienced attorneys take care of the complicated legal issues and deal with the insurance company minefields.

The experienced Georgia Accident Attorneys of Montlick and Associates is available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.