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Study: Pedestrians face greater risk from electric cars

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Pedestrian Accidents |

The United States and many other countries have made electric cars a core part of their strategies for combatting global warming. Through tax breaks and other incentives, the federal and state governments have promoted the purchase of electric vehicles and the installation of charging stations and other infrastructure necessary to keep them running. And, though the project of electrifying America’s vehicles will no doubt take many years, electric vehicles are becoming a more common sight on Illinois roads.

All this is good news in many ways, but these changes bring some unforeseen consequences. One of them, reportedly, is an increased risk of auto-pedestrian accidents. A recent study found that pedestrians were twice as likely to be be hit by an electric or hybrid vehicle, as compared to a gasoline-powered one.

This astonishing result came after researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compared rates of pedestrian accidents involving electric and hybrid vehicles to those involving gasoline-powered vehicles. In crowded urban areas, they found the difference was even greater: In cities, the researchers said, pedestrians were almost three times more likely to be hit by an electric or hybrid vehicle.

Lack of noise could be the cause

The researchers were unable to pinpoint exactly why electric and hybrid vehicles appear to be more dangerous to pedestrians, but they have a hypothesis: Pedestrians are less likely to hear these vehicles when compared to those powered by internal combustion.

Most people who have been near an electric car (or a hybrid vehicle running in electric mode) have noticed how quiet they can be. Without a gasoline-powered engine running, these vehicles often emit no more than a slight electric whining sound. This means pedestrians can’t always rely on their hearing to alert them to oncoming dangers. This problem would be particularly difficult in urban areas and other places where there’s a lot of noise.