Ride Boldly!

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NHTSA Study: Hybrid Cars More Hazardous to Cyclists & Pedestrians


Quite a bit has been said about hybrid vehicles, particularly about the reduced sound output of their engines. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) weighs in with a report that suggests the incidence of collisions between hybrid vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians is higher than that between internal combustion engine vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians.

The study is available as a PDF.

A few findings from the study:

  • Pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving vehicles commonly occurred on roadways, in zones with low speed limits, during daytime and in clear weather.
  • Crashes are more likely to occur between hybrids and bicycles vs. combustion engines and bicycles in situations where the car is slowing or stopping, backing up, or entering or leaving a parking space.
  • Bicyclist crashes involving hybrid vehicles at intersections or interchanges were significantly higher when compared to vehicles with internal combustion engines.
  • The sample size was fairly limited, but large enough to create a statistically significant sample.

Some hybrid and electric vehicles are trying to bridge the gap by creating artificial sound generators for the engines to make them sound a bit more like traditional combustion engines — although generally with lower volume. And there’s no denying that the reduced output of hybrid/electric vehicles is far nicer to perch behind at a stop or a light.

The study definitely re-emphasizes the importance of using your ears on the road to increase your safety factors — but to reinforce with visual cues as much as possible. Drivers of any vehicle also need to display caution when parking, pulling out, stopping, or accelerating.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.

One Comment

  1. It’s becoming more common these days for cars to be able to tell how close it is to other objects. Rather than making electric/hybrid vehicles louder all the time, it would make more sense for them to give some kind of warning beep when a close object is detected. Audible warning is already generally given inside the vehicle, it wouldn’t be hard to give audible warning outside too.